COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook won't talk to his players about finishing a victory short of the College World Series last season. He says they know too well what happened and are ready to work their way back to Omaha this season.
The Gamecocks and their second-year coach opened practice Friday in chilly, 29-degree temperatures for a season they hope leads back to TD Ameritrade Park for a fourth time in five seasons. Holbrook led South Carolina to the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional series in his debut season as coach, but lost game three, 5-4, and the Tar Heels went on to the College World Series.
"It was a disappointing end," Holbrook recalled. "I hope there's a bitter taste in their mouths."
There is, catcher and junior leader Grayson Greiner says. And he thinks that's combined with a determination to return and prove they're still the program that won national titles in 2010 and 2011 and finished second to CWS winner Arizona in 2012.
"To me, it's all about where we want to be at the end of the year as a team," said Greiner, who played for Team USA last summer.
Greiner is a centerpiece of what's expected to be a strong, deep lineup for South Carolina. The top returning hitter is Joey Pankake, who was second on the club last season with a .311 average, 11 home runs and 42 RBIs. Pankake's weakness, though, was in the field at shortstop — he led the Gamecocks with 17 errors — and he's switching to third base this season.
Pankake understands the switch and said it's as much about keeping his recovery on track after straining his right arm during fall workouts. Junior college transfer Marcus Mooney, whose brother Peter starred for the Gamecocks in their run to the 2011 CWS title, tops the list of candidates to fill the shortstop spot.