South Carolina has opened their 2013 baseball season with a series win over Liberty. The Gamecocks won the first game 4-3 and the second 8-7. They lost a 7 inning third game 3-2. Taking the series two games to one wasn't what most Gamecocks hoped for. In fact for many it was disappointing. USC fans have gotten used to a very high level of success the last three years, and outscoring Liberty by one run total over the weekend is not a high level of success.
There's nothing wrong with Liberty. They should be a trournament team, and it helps if you think about them being on par with Coastal Carolina, which they probably are. Still, a close series against a Big South opponent was a bit of a let down.
While there were many familiar faces at several positions, this is a new team. This team hasn't been to three College World Series. This team has yet to define itself. Right now it is a collection of very talented individuals. They will determine who they are by the way they come together this season. It's very, very early, so hold off on judgment for a few weeks.
The weekend series was very close. Carolina was so close to getting the sweep, and they were just about as close to being swept. We may look back on this series and think it was one of our strongest wins, or we may look back and shake our heads. USC has yet to define itself, and Liberty hasn't either. The team from Lynchburg could be very good … or pedestrian. We'll know more later.
We do know South Carolina has some things to work on. Number one on that list should be getting the lead off runner on base. The Gamecocks got the lead off runner on in 10 innings over the weekend. They scored 13 runs in those innings. In the 14 innings where the lead off batter made an out Carolina only scored one run, L.B. Dantzler's home run.
Defense needs to improve. Carolina committed 5 errors in three games. You can probably chalk that up to nerves and opening weekend. I wouldn't panic about this one quite yet, but strong defense has been a key strength for the Gamecocks the last few seasons.
It wasn't all that bad of a weekend in retrospect. Tyler Webb, Jordan Montgomery and Colby Holmes pitched well. Adam Westmoreland and Nolan Belcher, two pitchers entering their 13th season together, had some good moments and could be major contributors this season. Graham Saiko and Max Schrock, two newcomers, are going to be good players and are going to have productive years for this team.
Carolina won their opening series and has a week to improve before Albany comes to town. There is a ton of individual talent on this team. How they come together will determine the seaon. Coach Holbrook has his work cut out for him to find a way to get the proper players in the proper places, but it should be fun to watch it come together.