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Feb. 18, 2010

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Coach Tanner

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina opens the 2010 season with a three-game series vs. Duquesne. First pitch for Opening Day is 3 p.m. on Friday with Saturday’s contest also at 3 p.m. and Sunday set for 1:30 p.m. Live video broadcast is available at as well as live Gametracker Stats. Friday and Sunday’s games can be heard on WNKT 107.5 FM “The Game” and the Gamecock Radio Network with Andy Demetra and Tommy Moody on the call. Saturday’s game can be heard on WISW 1320 AM in Columbia. Former Gamecock great Kip Bouknight will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday. 2010 marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2000 SEC Championship team. Bouknight was 17-1 that season and earned USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur player in the country.

Tickets are still available for all three games of this weekend’s South Carolina-Duquesne baseball series at Carolina Stadium. Fans may purchase tickets by calling the Gamecock Ticket Office at (803) 777-4274 or at the Colonial Life Arena Box Office. Reserved tickets are $8 with outfield/grandstand tickets $6. Fans may also purchase their tickets on game day at the box office at Carolina Stadium.

In addition, any Gamecock fan attending the South Carolina-Tennessee men’s basketball game on Saturday may show their ticket at box office window number 8 at Carolina Stadium and receive a free ticket to Saturday’s baseball game.

For fans with season parking passes in the business lots, there is no parking in those lots on Friday until 5 p.m. Fans with those parking passes are encouraged to park in Lot 1, located at corners of Blossom, Williams and Wheat Streets.

Shuttles for both Friday and Saturday from Colonial Life Arena will begin to run at 1 p.m. Sunday’s shuttle will begin at 11:30 a.m. Please note that those riding the shuttle to the baseball game on Saturday will need to park in Colonial Life Arena Lot B. There will be no charge to park in Lot B on Saturday. Roundtrip shuttle is $2/person.

Probable Weekend Rotation

South Carolina – Blake Cooper (Sr. RHP)
Duquesne – Johnny Elms (Sr. RHP)

South Carolina – Sam Dyson (Jr. RHP)
Duquesne – Grant Gillespie (Jr. RHP) or Jim Devine (So. RHP)

South Carolina – Tyler Webb (Fr. LHP)
Duquesne – Andrew Heck (Jr. RHP)


South Carolina senior RHP Blake Cooper is scheduled to get the Opening Day start for the Gamecocks. The senior right-hander went 9-4 last season with a 4.50 ERA and hurled 86 innings with three complete games. Cooper won his last outing of the spring last year when he pitched a complete game in a 12-2 victory over East Carolina in the NCAA Regional. His three-year record at Carolina is 21-12, making him one of only 18 pitchers in Carolina history to earn 20-plus career wins.

He is the first senior to earn the Opening Day start for Carolina since Aaron Rawl back in 2005.

Opening Day Starters Under Head Coach Ray Tanner2010        Blake Cooper (Sr. RHP)2009        Sam Dyson (So. RHP)2008        Mike Cisco (Jr. RHP)2007        Harris Honeycutt (Jr. RHP)2006        Andrew Cruse (Jr. RHP)2005        Aaron Rawl (Sr. RHP)2004        Aaron Rawl (Jr. RHP)2003        Steven Bondurant (Sr. LHP)2002        David Marchbanks (So. LHP)2001        Kip Bouknight (Sr. RHP)2000        Kip Bouknight (Jr. RHP)1999        Kip Bouknight (So. RHP)1998        Brett Jodie (Jr. RHP)1997        Eddie Hoff (Jr. RHP)

South Carolina senior right-handed pitcher Jay Brown and senior catcher Kyle Enders have been selected as captains for the 2010 baseball season. Both players earned the honor after a vote by their teammates.

After missing the 2008 season, Brown returned to the mound last year and was 3-0 with a 3.35 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts and 23 walks allowed. Last season, Brown was recognized for his community service work off the field as he was named to 2009 SEC Baseball Community Service Team. In addition, he earned the athletic department’s prestigious President’s Award at the Gamecock Gala. Brown is a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member. Brown has already earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public administration.

Enders is a fifth-year catcher with the Gamecock program. Last season he shared duties behind the plate with Justin Dalles, appearing in 37 games. He hit .261 as a junior and compiled a .260 batting average in his sophomore season in 2008. He has fielded an impressive .994 in his career with just three errors behind the plate. He is a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member as well. Enders is an accounting major.

Both Brown and Enders served as team managers in the fall during the Garnet & Black World Series.

South Carolina sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. will be out four to eight weeks after undergoing surgery last week for a broken right hand. Bradley, a consensus Freshman All-America selection in 2009, had a productive first season with the Gamecocks batting .349 (89-for-255) with 11 HR and 46 RBI and played in all 63 games on the year with 61 starts. Bradley ended the season on a high note as well with a productive NCAA Regional in Greenville, N.C. as he hit .500 (9-for-18) for the weekend with a pair of homers and eight runs scored as well.

Senior first baseman Nick Ebert and junior right-handed pitcher Sam Dyson earned Preseason All-America honors for the 2010 season. Dyson was a third-team Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American with Ebert recognized on the third team released by the NCBWA.

Dyson was a frontline starter for Carolina in the 2009 season and compiled a 9-4 record with a 5.21 ERA and hurled a team-high 102 innings. He struck out 94 and walked 37. He allowed 64 runs, 59 earned on 92 hits as well. In his two-year career, Dyson owns a 17-4 record and has 138 strikeouts in 152.2 innings pitched. He was a 10th round MLB Draft selection by the Oakland A’s in 2009 as well.

Ebert hit .321 (67-for-209) last year with 23 HR and 72 RBI and was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2009 for the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks have been recognized in several preseason national rankings released by collegiate baseball publications and news outlets. Carolina’s highest preseason mark is No. 10 by Baseball America. has the Gamecocks at No. 13 in the nation with the NCBWA putting South Carolina at No. 21 and Collegiate Baseball listing the Gamecocks No. 28 in the country.

The South Carolina baseball team will have 15 regular season games televised for the 2010 season. SportSouth will carry nine home baseball games with CSS televising three games, FS South carrying two games and ESPNU also airing one contest. All home games not televised will also be streamed live on

Here is the complete TV schedule as of February 12, 2010.

Tuesday, March 23 - South Carolina at Georgia Southern - 7 p.m. ET (CSS)Saturday, March 27 - South Carolina at Auburn - 1 p.m. ET (CSS)Saturday, April 3 - Mississippi State at South Carolina - 4 p.m. ET (SportSouth)Sunday, April 4 - Mississippi State at South Carolina - 2 p.m. ET (ESPNU)Tuesday, April 7 - College of Charleston at South Carolina - 7 p.m. ET (SportSouth)Friday, April 16 - South Carolina vs. Ole Miss - 7 p.m. ET (SportSouth)Saturday, April 17 - South Carolina vs. Ole Miss - 3 p.m. ET (SportSouth)Saturday, May 1 - Alabama at South Carolina - 1 p.m. ET (CSS)Friday, May 7 - South Carolina at Kentucky - 7 p.m. ET (FS South/BBSN)Saturday, May 8 - South Carolina at Kentucky - 7 p.m. ET (FS South/BBSN)Tuesday, May 11 - South Carolina vs. Wofford - 7 p.m. ET (SportSouth)Tuesday, May 18 - South Carolina vs. Furman - 7 p.m. ET (SportSouth)Thursday, May 20 - South Carolina vs. Florida - 7 p.m. ET (SportSouth)Friday, May 21 - South Carolina vs. Florida - 7 p.m. ET (SportSouth)Saturday, May 22 - South Carolina vs. Florida - 4 p.m. ET (SportSouth)

The regional sports networks serving the Southeast – FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Carolinas and FOX Sports Tennessee – collectively reach more than 12.6 million cable and satellite television households in seven states in the Southeast. SportSouth reaches more than 9.4 million homes in six Southeastern states.

Ray Tanner
South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner is in his 14th season as head coach of the Gamecock baseball team and his 23rd year as a collegiate head coach. Tanner’s career record is 975-439-3 (.689) with a 580-266 (.686) mark at South Carolina. The .686 winning percentage is third highest in SEC history. He became the fourth fastest active coach to reach the 800-win plateau in the 2005 season. He has averaged over 44 wins a season and is currently the eighth winningest active coach in Division I college baseball by winning percentage.

Atop the list are three consecutive trips to the College World Series from 2002-2004. Included in those journeys to Omaha were a national runner-up finish in 2002, a victory over SEC champion LSU in 2003 and three straight wins over perennial powers LSU, Miami (Fla.) and Cal State Fullerton in 2004.

Under Tanner’s leadership, South Carolina owns the longest current streak of NCAA Regional appearances among the 12 SEC schools with 10 straight trips to the tournament dating back to the 2000 season. In that span, Carolina has seven NCAA Super Regional appearances (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007). South Carolina is one of only seven schools in the nation to make at least seven NCAA Super Regionals in the last 10 years and one of only eight schools in the country to have reached the NCAA Regionals every season in this decade. The program’s 10-year total record of 468-201 is the fourth highest win total among NCAA Division I schools. South Carolina has 10 consecutive seasons of 40 or more wins.

MORE PRESEASON ACCOLADES, and Baseball America have also tabbed South Carolina to finish second in the SEC Eastern Division.

Jackie Bradley Jr. is a preseason first-team All-SEC selection by both and Baseball America. Whit Merrifield and Sam Dyson also received accolades as preseason second-team All-SEC choices by Merrifield was recognized by Baseball America as the best base runner in the Southeastern Conference.

With a strong corps of returning players and a stout recruiting class, there is optimism and high expectations for the University of South Carolina in 2010. A consistent winner, the South Carolina baseball program expects to compete for a conference championship this upcoming season along with a berth in the 64-team field for the NCAA Tournament and an opportunity for a trip to Omaha and the College World Series.

“It doesn’t matter what year it is, how much experience you have, how many starters are returning, expectations remain the same at South Carolina,” said head coach Ray Tanner. “We expect to battle for championships in the SEC and be a nationally competitive program. That will never change here.”

A comforting feeling for Tanner though is the return of a majority of position starters along with the squad’s top four starting pitchers from last season. Adding to that is a dynamic group of newcomers.

“I watch these guys practice, I watch them in the weight room and I watch how they go about their business,” said Tanner. “I’m excited about this group and I look forward to watching them play. We do have more experience to open the season in 2010 than a year ago and than in some years past. I think it’s a talented group and it’s a deep group. We have depth on the mound, we have depth at positions, we can match up offensively and we can match up pitching-wise.”

As noted by Tanner, the Gamecocks appear to have a deep group of position players heading into Opening Day. Three-quarters of the infield and a nucleus of outfielders from last year return as well as some versatile athletes that can fill in at two or three different spots. It is a veteran group with a lot of stripes on their shoulders.

All-Southeastern Conference standouts Nick Ebert and Bobby Haney return at first base and shortstop, respectively, for their senior year. Ebert finished with a .321 average, 23 HR and 72 RBI last season; only one player in the nation returns that hit more home runs last year. Haney returns to the middle infield after starting all 63 games at shortstop last year. Haney hit .291 (66-for-227) with four HR and 30 RBI and, along with earning All-SEC accolades, was a 2009 SEC All-Defensive team choice.

“Ebert was our home run leader for 2009 and I’m ecstatic that he chose to return to school,” said Tanner. “He’s a tremendous worker and will be in the middle of the lineup as a run producer. Bobby Haney is an extremely underrated player, a good player and has shown some leadership skills (in the offseason). He has improved offensively and has made some strides in the weight room.”

A third senior returning to the mix is catcher Kyle Enders, who shared duties with Justin Dalles in 2009 behind the plate. With Dalles now in the Baltimore Orioles organization, Enders was voted by his teammates as a captain and will get the nod to anchor the pitching staff. Another senior behind the plate is Brady Thomas, who expects to see action and gives the Gamecocks another option with a left-handed bat.

“Enders is a fifth-year guy and he said from day one this fall that he was going to be a better on-base percentage guy, strike out less than walk and I think he had two strikeouts on the fall,” said Tanner. “He’s a mature player. He would be (the starter at catcher), he earned it. Brady Thomas, certainly, narrowed the gap though. Thomas was a guy I thought going into the fall would be our backup catcher, I don’t view him that way (now). He’s a left-handed stick that has shown his skills are better behind the plate. I certainly feel better about our catching situation.”

Jackie Bradley Jr. and Whit Merrifield were staples in the outfield in 2008 and figure to hit at the top of the order in the everyday lineup again. Now a junior, Merrifield returns after batting .340 (91-for-268) in the 2009 season and spending the summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Chatham Anglers. Merrifield’s 91 hits are the most hits by a returning SEC player from last year. He had 11 homers and 49 RBI as well. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit .349 (89-for-255) in his first collegiate season and was a consensus Freshman All-America selection. He tallied 11 homers and 46 RBI. Bradley also spent the summer on the Cape with the Hyannis Mets.

There will be a small change with the duo as Bradley has made the move to center field with Merrifield the starter now in right field. The move gives Tanner more flexibility should he need the versatile Merrifield for the late innings in the infield.

Whit Merrifield has been our starter in center field for two years and Jackie Bradley Jr. is an outstanding player,” said Tanner. “When we looked at our team, I think it became apparent early on that there was a possibility that Whit could end up in the infield either full-time or on occasion. As we sit here at this time, I think it is going to be on occasion. Because of that, we didn’t want to have to make more moves than necessary. If Whit was in center, Jackie was in right, then Jackie has to move to center, have to put a new right fielder in, it just causes more of a domino effect. I think Jackie is very good in center field as Whit was and I talked to Whit about it and he understood why we made that move and I think he will probably show up at third base sometimes, and possibly even at second base. He’s a well-conditioned athlete and he will be fine. He was an infielder by trade (in high school), I’m confident with wherever we have to put him. He can play third, he looked good over there for me in the fall, and he can play second (base) as well.”

Despite the loss of outfielder DeAngelo Mack to the New York Yankees organization, Tanner has some choices in left field with Adam Matthews returning and the addition of junior college transfer Robert Beary. Both are right-handed bats and will receive opportunity to win the job in the spring. Matthews finished the 2009 season on a high note with reps at designated hitter and in his final start tallied four hits and a pair of homers in the 12-2 win over East Carolina at the NCAA Regional. Beary proved to be one of the top hitters in the junior college ranks in Florida, where he was the 2008 Panhandle Conference Player of the Year. Beary may also see time at first base.

“It is going to be a preseason battle between (Robert) Beary and (Adam) Matthews,” said Tanner. “They are both good players. Beary is good enough to provide some depth for us behind the plate (also). He hit 17 homers (one year in junior college). He had screws in his wrist but he got back on the field in the end (of the fall) as Matthews did. I told them when they got back, what you do in the rest of the fall, doesn’t count, we are just glad to have you back out here healthy. They are both good players. I think the talent that Adam Matthews has and brings to the table; it’s hard to think that he might not get a chance to play. He finished the season for us in a big way in 2009, but Robert Beary is a good player too.”

Another position battle to watch in the spring is at second base. Junior infielder Scott Wingo is back after fielding a crisp .969 in 61 games and made just eight errors on the year. He had 48 starts last season and has worked to improve at the plate. Junior college transfer Adrian Morales, who earned NJCAA All-Region accolades at Miami-Dade CC, is challenging him.

“I think when you look at second base, you have two very good players there in (Scott) Wingo and (Adrian) Morales,” said Tanner. “Morales is potentially probably a little better hitter than Wingo, although Wingo out-hit him by a little this fall. It is going to be a decision decided in the preseason as well.”

Rounding out the infield is freshman Christian Walker. The newcomer from Pennsylvania showed a promising bat in the fall and is the heir apparent at third base replacing Andrew Crisp.

“He was everything we thought he would be and more offensively,” said Tanner. “He swung the bat extremely well; he ended up leading our team in hitting this fall, over .400, he was impressive. Not only a guy with some power, but he used both sides of the field, a great two-strike hitter. It is obviously very early in his career, but as a true freshman entering in the fall, he is one of the best hitters that I have coached. Defensively, it is a work in progress but he has made some strides. We just need to get him a little more polished defensively, and he understands that and is willing to put forward the work necessary.”

Tanner also is pleased with the selections and choices he can make at the designated hitter spot. Utility player Parker Bangs hit. 328 last season and is a right-handed bat option along with freshman Brison Celek, who showed a lot of power in fall practice. Senior first baseman Jeffery Jones also could be selected, as he gives the team another left-handed bat in the lineup.

“Parker (Bangs’) average last year against lefties was impressive,” said Tanner. “Certainly that is important to us. Jeffery Jones had a great fall, he swung the bat very well and is much stronger than he was a year ago. He spent the summer here conditioning and lifting, so he’s trying to get some opportunities as a senior. Brison Celek, although he is a true freshman, (was productive) in the fall. The first night of our Garnet & Black (World Series), he had two home runs into the bleachers. He is an extremely strong young man. There have been some guys that have made some noise.”

The Gamecock pitching staff boasts a lot of experience with a group returning that earned 34 of the team’s 40 wins last year. Junior right-handed pitcher Sam Dyson and senior right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper both tallied nine victories last season. The nine-win total by each pitcher is tied for the second highest win total from last year returning to the Southeastern Conference for the 2010 season. Along with sophomore left-handed pitcher Nolan Belcher, the Gamecocks return the entire weekend rotation from last year’s squad. Belcher earned 2009 SEC All-Freshman team honors.

“Dyson and Cooper are guys at the front,” said Tanner. “(They) combine to form a very experienced 1-2 punch in the rotation. Blake had a strong fall and looked as good in the fall as he had in his entire career here. He worked hard in the summer to improve his conditioning and we are looking for him to become a double-digit winner in 2010. We look for Sam to improve on his nine wins from a year ago. Belcher got a lot of innings as a true freshman and is a tremendous competitor. We had some thoughts of possibly using him out of the bullpen but he could be back in the rotation like last year.”

Another option to start is senior right-hander Jay Brown. After missing the 2008 season, Brown returned to the mound and made eight starts and compiled a 3-0 record with a 3.35 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts and 23 walks allowed. He had a productive fall and has the respect of his teammates as he was voted as one of the two captains for this year’s squad.

“Brown finished the 2009 season strong for us and he is a candidate for a spot in the rotation,” said Tanner.

Beyond the top four starting pitchers returning from last year, the Gamecocks have a mix of talent from the right and left that provide options. A pair of freshmen from Virginia have caught the eye of Tanner in fall practice. Right-hander Ethan Carter was a 2009 HS All-American and left-hander Tyler Webb earned All-State honors and both seem to figure in for the upcoming year. Tanner is also happy to have a healthy Steven Neff back in the mix. All three may get some opportunities to start in addition to time out of the bullpen.

“I was really impressed with what Webb did in the fall and Carter made some noise,” said Tanner. “Having Neff healthy for the first time is important.”

A closer look to the bullpen sees a pair of veterans returning with more experience. Junior right-hander Parker Bangs and sophomore left-hander Michael Roth made several appearances and figure to be on the bump again during the late innings. Bangs showed positive signs at times vs. opposing batters last year. He hurled 33.2 innings in 15 appearances and is determined to be a key component in closing out a game. Roth emerged in his freshman year, as he made 16 appearances and figures to see a lot of time on the mound as well.

Carolina also has three junior college transfers that Tanner can mix and match. Right-hander Jose Mata is a submarine thrower that earned Fireman of the Year honors in the Southern Conference of the FCCAA last year for Broward CC. Left-hander Jimmy Revan helped lead Spartanburg Methodist JC to the NJCAA World Series and he rode that momentum to a solid fall that saw him among the leaders in earned run average for the staff. Right-hander John Taylor also comes from a submarine slot. After two seasons at Florence Darlington Tech, he had a solid summer in the Coastal Plain League that saw him earn All-Star honors. Hard-throwing freshman Colby Holmes will figure in.

“Some of the guys I am really excited about haven’t thrown an inning (in the spring) yet,” said Tanner. “I like Webb, I like Carter, I like Taylor, I like Jose Mata, and he gives you a different look. Parker Bangs, he could emerge as being one of the best bullpen guys we’ve got. He is in the low-to-mid 90’s with a pretty good slider. He has had some command issues at times but he has also shown that he can be dominant. Roth is going to pitch. He is very competitive, a situational lefty and his arm strength is better (than last year). We have to plug these guys into the right spot. There are some choices. There are some battles. I like that. It is important what they do in the preseason.”

South Carolina was selected to finish in second place in the Eastern Division in the 2010 SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll that was released on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Carolina has finished in the upper half of the SEC Eastern Division 13 of 18 seasons since joining the league including 10 of 13 years under head coach Ray Tanner.

LSU is the choice to win the 2010 SEC championship with five of 11 votes from the head coaches. Florida was selected to win the Eastern Division with nine of 12 votes. South Carolina received two first place votes for the Eastern Division. In addition to picking a preseason champion, the head coaches voted a predicted order of finish in the SEC Eastern and Western Divisions. Points were compiled on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for each division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.