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Jan. 19, 2006

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina head baseball coach Ray Tanner and requested players met with the media on Jan. 19 before the team’s first official practice.

Head Coach Ray Tanner

On the upcoming season:
“It’s an exciting day for us. Personally, I’m going into my 10th season here. I’m ecstatic about the opportunity to still be here. It’s been a wonderful run for me. We hope that we can continue to put a good product on the field and this team in ’06 presents a little different look than we’ve had the past few years. We’ve probably got more youth that is probably going to get immediate playing time than ever before with a good blend of older guys and a pitching staff that I think is extremely capable but we don’t have a lot of proven numbers there, guys with great resumes. We’re excited about it. We think we have some good talent. We’ve got to get better each day and hopefully by the end of the year, we’re good enough to be a team that gets to go to the postseason and we can peak at the right time.”

On being his 10th season at Carolina:
“It’s flown by to me. It’s just been a tremendous place to work. I’ve had some outstanding teams and the enthusiasm and support from the Carolina Baseball fans is unsurpassed. I’m very grateful and extremely happy to be here and I hope there are a lot of years left.”

On about coming up short of Omaha last season:
“I think that you have to be realistic but you never want to quit playing before everyone else does. We had the three good runs in a row where we went to Omaha and last year, we weren’t able to beat Georgia Tech in the championship game of the Regional but that is part of the game. I would like to have a few games back from last year but you put it into perspective. You’re certainly not happy about it but you’re also realistic. We weren’t quite as good as we needed to be and hopefully this year, we can do a little better job and get to play longer.”

On getting back to Omaha:
“There are expectations but I don’t think anybody wants it any different. I think that at times, it is the human nature in us all that you don’t like people upset with you about anything. I believe in the expectations and our players and that is the way that we want it. I don’t think that I’ll be coaching when there aren’t expectations. We hope that we can get back to where we have been in the past and eventually have the chance to win the whole thing. Is it this year, who knows but we’re trying to have the kind of program that is consistently a top 10 or top 15 program and at the end of the year, if you are still playing and you get hot at the right time, great things can happen.”

On finding players to step up this year:
“We’re trying to fill the holes that we have from last year. It is going to be real difficult to replace a guy like Steve Pearce or Aaron Rawl, the guys that have been staples in your program but we’ve got to have guys step up. Maybe it is a combination of guys but the expectation is that we put somebody else in there and try not to miss a beat and continue to have a good program.”

On finding the top starting pitchers:
“We’ve always had a couple of guys that we thought were innings eaters for us; guys that were going to pitch whether they ended up at 6-6 at the end of the year or 11-3. They were going to get their innings and they were going to be there if they remained healthy. This staff looks to be a little different. I think it is a good thing. If you forced me to name a rotation for opening weekend, I just couldn’t do it. I could give you six or seven guys that three guys would come out of that group. I’m not sure who they are going to be. We’ve got guys that are capable. Andrew Cruse, Arik Hempy, Wynn Pelzer, true freshman Will Atwood, Andy Lambert, who finished the year strong, Forrest Beverly. We just have a number of guys who could step into that role and they’re going to pitch if they earn it.”

On getting more offensive production than last year:
“I don’t think that we had a weak- hitting team last year. I think we had too many guys that didn’t have good years at the same time. I think that is the key on any club regardless of your expectations. Everybody is not going to hit .325+ with double digit home runs but you can’t have as many guys as we had last year have average years. I think they were pretty good players but they just didn’t put up the numbers and it hurt us as we along at winning some close games. We just didn’t give our pitchers enough support.”

On the pressure facing touted freshmen Justin Smoak and Reese Havens:
“I don’t know about the expectations but it is an individual situation. I’ve been very impressed with not only those two guys but with Will Atwood, Mike Cisco, and James Darnell. The composure and poise that these freshmen have has surprised me. They had some adversity in the fall. They handled it well and have played at a high level of AAU baseball. They have been highly touted players and they have been able to answer that. Are all of they going to have great years, probably not but I think there are two or three guys that are capable of having solid years for us and being Freshmen All-Americans. Will they be, I don’t know but I am impressed with where they are right now and I think they will do a good job for us.”

On the possibility of having Justin Smoak and Reese Havens start:
“Absolutely. You can’t get players like them out of high school. They’re blue chip prospects. They are guys that are highly touted and are at the top of the heap. They have been everything I thought they would be and more. Not only are they talented but they handle themselves extremely well for young players. I think that is because of their background with their AAU baseball and playing under the gun for their entire high school career. People knew about those two young men and they have handled it extremely well. They’ll do well for us. Will it be .350 or .360, I don’t know but I think they will be contributors and guys that can make an impact.”

On a starting line-up if the season started today:
“We’re not sure who would play left field. We could probably go a couple different directions. Andrew Crisp is probably our most versatile player. He can play both middle infield positions. He is a very, good center fielder now. He’s only a redshirt freshman and he hit almost .350 in the fall so he could get a nod to play left. Cheyne Hurst and Robbie Grinestaff, who is the bat guy who swings it well but is not as good defensively as the other two, are the other possibilities. Michael Campbell in center, Mark Stanley in right, Justin Smoak at first, Chris Brown, a senior who had a pretty good second half and great defensive player, at second, Reese Havens at short, Neil Giesler at third, and Ian Paxton, who had a much better fall offensively than a year ago, would get the nod behind the plate although Trent Kline is a very good player and he’s a switch-hitter behind the plate. There are some other guys pushing a little bit. We’re not sure who will end up as the DH but if we had to play today, that’s kind of how it would look.”


Justin Smoak

On high expectations for himself and other freshmen:
“It’s basically just fun being here. I finally got to school, and just playing with a bunch of guys who all blend well. It’s been fun so far.”

On starting his college career:
“I’m very anxious. I’ve been waiting on it for a while now, and hopefully we can get out there with this group of guys and compete for a championship this year.”

On whether he feels any pressure:
“Not really. I mean, we’ve got a bunch of good guys, a bunch of older guys who have helped us out through the whole fall practice and everything else, and those guys have really done a lot to make me feel comfortable. It’s helped out a lot, and hopefully going into the season it will be ok.”

Mark Stanley

We just have to keep in mind what our goal is, and we just work as hard as we can every day, and let the chips fall where they may.

On his health:
I had a couple of problems last year. I’m feeling good this year, I’m healthy, 100 percent. I’m ready to go, I’m just excited to get back out on the field for the first day of practice, and I’m ready to go.

On whether he anticipates taking on a big load for this team:
I’m going to do my best. I feel that I’m a leader, and I have to show those qualities on the field as well as off the field, so I’m going to do my best to lead by example and verbally.

Michael Campbell

On how he would like this year to be better than past seasons:
“Well my power numbers were down last year, and that’s what I’d like to bring up this year, and hopefully get on base, you know, on-base percentage. I’ve cut down on my strikeouts and taken more walks, so hopefully next season we can work on that a little bit.”

On how the offense performed in fall practice:
“We had a lot of great hitters in the fall, Phil Disher hit .380 or .390 with six or seven home runs in the fall when we only played 12 or 13 games. We had a bunch of guys who hit over .320, .330, so we have a solid team this year. I’m ready to go.”

Reese Havens

On whether he’ll be able to handle the hype:
“It’s fine. I don’t really like it, I’m not a guy who likes to be in the spotlight, but I don’t shy away from it, so I’ve accepted it, and everything’s going well.”

On how the older guys have treated him:
“We’ve got a bunch of seniors, a bunch of good leaders on the team, so it’s real easy to come in here and get a good start.”

On his relationship with the other freshmen players:
“We’ve got most of the freshmen in The Roost over there so we’re always together. The older guys live on campus or in their apartments off campus, so we see each other a lot.”

Chris Brown

On incoming freshmen:
“They’re going to be just fine. I’ve been impressed with them, they haven’t come in here like freshmen. If you’ve spent time with them like I have, you wouldn’t think they were freshmen. Not only are they just great players, but in the weight room, at practice, we stay after and work on things, you know, double plays and stuff like that to get to know each other, and, you know, they work extremely hard, it’s fun, it’s fun to have them on my right and my left.”

On whether he’s looking at this as a one-year run because he’s a senior:
“Not really. I mean, we actually have a good group right here, these seniors and the young guys and old guys. Me, Paxton, Giesler, Campbell. I mean, Campbell’s been here forever, and it’s great to have guys like Campbell and Stanley, guys that have been here for four years, and it’s a good mix and we’ve got a lot of experience to help us. This is our last year playing together, and we want to make the most of it.”

Ian Paxton

On whether this team can make a run at the College World Series:
“We feel that our team’s good enough to get there. We’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of young talent, and if some of those guys step up and some of the old guys produce, we’re going have a fantastic team this year.”

On how individual workouts have been going:
“Individual’s been going pretty good, you know, most of the guys hang out here all day everyday for the most part, so we kind of hang around and watch each other. We’re a close knit team, so we just kind of hang out. We do everything together.”

On his role this season:
If I’m on the bench, then I’ll be on the bench cheering, and if I get to catch, then I’m going to do my best wherever it may be.

On how to handle young pitchers and how much is up to him as far as calling pitches is concerned:
“Here, the catchers don’t do much calling. Coach Calvi scouts out the other teams, and he knows how to pitch. He’s one of the best pitching coaches, I believe, out there, and sometimes, half the games he’ll let me go. Sometimes he left it up to me last year to call the pitches, and you know, we just do that from evaluating the hitters on the other team, seeing where they are in the box, and we just go from there.”

Neil Giesler

On expectations for this season:
“For one, this being my senior year, this is it for me, so I expect a lot out of myself. Starting at third base, you need to be a leader. It wasn’t much of a disappointing year last year, maybe I expect a little more, but I definitely want to pick up my production offensively and go from there.”

On offensive struggles last season:
“I think maybe just the change (from JUCO), something I didn’t adapt to myself, you know. I think it was more a mental thing than a physical thing, but I’m trying to move past it.”

On whether he can point to the HR against Kentucky last year as the point when his offensive production began to pick up:
“I think that really set me off. It just gave me a lot of confidence, that’s the key with me is confidence, and just went from there.”