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Jan. 19, 2007

Columbia, S.C. –

The <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>South Carolina baseball team held their first official practice of the season on Friday, Jan. 19, 2007. Prior to the practice, players and coaches met with the media. The Gamecocks open the season on Friday, Feb. 9 vs. Oklahoma at a tournament hosted by UNC Wilmington. Carolina will also face Western Kentucky and the host Seahawks in the opening weekend.

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South Carolina Head Coach Ray Tanner:

“I’ve just finished a decade hear; I appreciate the relationship that we have here at South Carolina. It’s been fun, even on the tough days.”

On leadership:

“One of the bright spots for me was Steven Reinhold, a guy who isn’t a regular, being selected almost unanimously by his teammates. When I saw the numbers, I got the feeling that this team could do a little extra with that type of leadership. Reese Havens will assist him with the position players, with [Harris] Honeycutt and [Arik] Hempy with the pitchers. We play in a tough conference and there are a lot of games in the balance each year and you have to have guys who will be able to help you rally and win the close games. It makes a lot of difference at the end of the season; it’s something that every coach is looking for.”

On the expectations:

“You just expect to win the next game in all seriousness, but you want to be in the position to be playing at the end of the year. You could win 40 games, you could win 50 games, you just never know, but you have to progress throughout the season. You have to build depth, and have to have some guys step up. I don’t think in any of the years that I have been a coach that I have ended the season with the same lineup that I started with. Last year, certainly we had to make some adjustments.”

On making it to the College World Series:

“I think that this team is good enough, talent wise and potential, but we have to also get it done between the lines. We may fall short of that but I think the talent level is good enough to have some good things happen.”

On Arik Hempy:

“His arm is working well right now, and we hope to have him sometime in March, but we aren’t going to push it. We want him playing at the end of the season. I think one publication mentioned him as an `X’ factor and I think that’s true. We can be a pretty good team if he doesn’t pitch but if he can get back to the place he was last year before the injury, that gives us a special pitcher.”

On Justin Smoak:

“I thought he looked great during the summer and fall ball. He is much stronger than he was last season. He’s an outstanding hitter who doesn’t strike out and uses the whole field. I’m happy with where he is.”

On the SEC:

“If you look at the polls, one poll has 12 SEC teams in the top 40 and another poll has 10 in the top 30. There is a small distance between the outhouse and the penthouse. It’s a tough league, but the good news is that if you can make it through SEC play and into the post-season, you got a chance because you played good competition throughout the season.”

On the pitching staff:

“You’re only as good as the pitching and if we can be consistent day in and day out, we can catch some people. You have to have pitchers who can hold the other guys at bay and be consistent on the mound.”

South Carolina Player Justin Smoak:

On season expectations:

“I’ve got expectations for myself, but the biggest goal is to get out here and help this team get back to Omaha and get a championship.”

On getting to the Super Regional:

“It just tells you how good our coaching staff is and how hard we work as a team. We had a couple of injuries last year, but we’re almost too full strength this year. Hopefully it will work out for us this spring.”

On the team’s strengths:

“The biggest thing is that we are already up there in preseason rankings and there are already teams who are gunning for us. We have a lot of guys coming back and that’s really going to help us have those veterans back.”

South Carolina Player Arik Hempy:

On being selected Captain:

“It’s a big honor for me and it helps with the healing process when you know you have guys who are behind you like I have on this team.

On his impact this season:

“I know that if I’m healthy, I’ll have an impact on the team just because there will be another fresh arm that gives other teams a different look.”

On the injury:

“I’m hoping to be back in March. I’ve been throwing everyday, trying to get my strength up and haven’t had any problems with it. I’m not trying to rush it. The coaches tell me everyday to calm down and slow down because they don’t need me yet. They want me when SEC play starts.”

South Carolina Player Steven Reinhold

On the goal for the year:

“Of course the goal for the year is a trip to Omaha. We’ve had some good years, but hopefully we’ll finish up out there and bring home a national championship. That’s the ultimate goal for any college team.”

On the team:

“It’s great to have guys out there who consistently perform. We’re deep this year. We have players who play well and quality pitchers. It should be a good year and an exciting one.”

On the season:

“There is a little pressure this year. We’re considered a perennial powerhouse team, and to not make it to Omaha in couple year definitely adds to the pressure, but I think we can get back there.”

South Carolina Player James Darnell:

“Our ultimate goal is to be playing on the very last day of the season in Omaha. If we keep working hard, and keep the team first, we have the competitors to get there.”

On playing as a freshman:

“Anytime you can get freshmen that much experience in a tough conference like the SEC, it helps a lot. This year we feel confident in our starting position.”

On playing the final season at Sarge Frye Field:

“Its going to be a lot of fun. The Sarge is absolutely awesome. I love the fans and the atmosphere and I have a lot of respect for it. It’s going to be tough to leave, but I’m looking forward to the new stadium. It’s been a lot of fun to play here.”