COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook has gone through several tantrums as team injuries piled up. He’s just glad the Gamecocks haven’t done the same.
Holbrook said Thursday his players have remained steady and prepared despite injuries that could likely keep starters Max Schrock, Connor Bright and Elliott Caldwell out of the lineup this weekend at Georgia.
Schrock, one of the team’s most talented hitters, has played just 17 games at second base this season in dealing with illness and a back injury. Bright, the right fielder, has started just two of the past 11 games because of elbow issues. And left fielder Caldwell is out six-to-eight weeks, also with a back injury.
To top things off, Schrock’s replacements at second in D.C. Arendas and Jordan Gore have upper respiratory problems this week and will travel separately so as not to infect the rest of the team. “So needless to say, we have (closer) Joel Seddon ready to take some ground balls because outside of that, we’re running out of people,” Holbrook said.
It’s been that sort of stretch for the second-year coach, who’s gone through the predictable pre-game emotions at not having his best players available. “You should see me,” Holbrook joked. “We’re snake bit, let’s forfeit, call the season off we’ve got no players.”
Instead, Holbrook has watched the backups step in and perform strongly as the Gamecocks (34-11) have won their past two Southeastern Conference series. South Carolina is second to Florida in the SEC Eastern Division.
“We’ve got some players who are good, they just haven’t had a chance,” Holbrook said.
Holbrook said Seddon, a former high school star at shortstop growing up in Michigan, looked as smooth as ever in the field, but would only be used as a last resort. Seddon leads the SEC with 12 saves this season.
The coach has liked what he’s seen from backups like Arendas, Gore and outfielder Gene Cone. All started this past Sunday in a 9-3 victory over Alabama to win the series against the Crimson Tide in a game Holbrook thought was among the best his team played all year.
Holbrook let Schrock and Bright know that if things kept trending upward for the group on the field, the coach sure wouldn’t change things around easily to make room for the regulars.
Schrock and Bright will travel to Georgia and try and get some practice in to see how they feel. Schrock took batting practice this week, although Holbrook said it was just a few swings at less than 50 percent speed. Bright is closer to returning, it’s just a matter of how much pain he can tolerate since doctors have said he can’t make his injury worse by playing.
“They’re leaders of the team, and we need them chomping at the bit to get back in there,” Holbrook said. “If they can handle the pain or handle the discomfort that the injuries are giving them and play through it, then they might be available.”
Catcher Grayson Greiner isn’t crazy about teammates getting hurt, but believes there’s a commitment in the locker room not to use that as an excuse to under-perform. “We’ve been kind of getting some bad luck,” he said. “But we’ve just got to push through it.”
Greiner tried to bring a bit of luck his team’s way with a rabbit’s foot — actually a whole rabbit. Byron the Bunny has become the team’s mascot, accompanying the team the past two weekends and making the ride on the team bus to Georgia. Byron’s posed on the field, with players and even former head coach and current athletic director Ray Tanner.
“You want to talk to Byron after I’m done?” Greiner said, smiling.
These days with so many injuries, whatever works is OK with Holbrook and the Gamecocks.