It's opening day, and this writer's a bit bummed that he'll be missing the festivities for the first time since 2010. But if you do make it to Carolina Stadium, your afternoon's cast of characters has been confirmed. The final 35-man roster, hours before first pitch, has been finalized. There are no jawdroppers, but a few names whose absence is worth noting:
Kwinton Smith: All things considered, this is probably the best case scenario for both parties. Reports had made it clear Smith was unlikely to make the team, and now he's free to take part in spring football. Our receiving corps, tight ends aside, sports an average height of about 4'8", so a long body like Smith would be a welcome addition should he crack the two-deep. Incidentally, fellow footballers Shon Carson and Ahmad Christian did make the cut. Carson is listed as an outfielder, Christian an OF/INF.
Ryan Ripken: According to the beats, Ripken just isn't ready. But with LB Dantzler graduating after the 2013 season, he'll have an excellent opportunity to step in next year.
Hunter Privette: The only player from the 2012 roster not to make the 2013 roster. Privette made 15 appearances in 2012 and put up respectable numbers (1-0, 9.2 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 14 K, 1.86 ERA). But with the high number of returning hurlers paired with the incoming group, cutting a veteran was a likely scenario. Privette will still have a year of eligibility remaining and could return for the 2014 season.
The journey begins against Liberty, which is certainly no pushover opening day opponent. The Flames are coached by Jim Toman, who was on Ray Tanner's South Carolina staff for 11 years. He's a respected recruiter and has done an impressive job in his years at Liberty, coaching them to a 41-19 record in 2012.
Toeing the rubber for the Gamecocks today is sophomore Jordan Montgomery. The opening day line-up is as follows:
1. Tanner English (CF)
2. Graham Saiko (LF)
3. Max Schrock (2B)
4. Joey Pankake (SS)
5. LB Dantzler (1B)
6. Grayson Greiner (C)
7. Erik Payne (DH)
8. TJ Costen (RF)
9. Chase Vergason (3B)
Remember: it'll be November before baseball goes to sleep again. I CAN'T STOP SMILING