What's a great series of entries previewing the baseball team without a pun-based title? Absolutely nothing. With Back in the Swing of Things, I'll be taking a rapid-fire look at the baseball team's returning players and getting you acquainted with some of the new faces as well.
The contest for the opening day start at the keystone has been the most hotly contested position battle of the
spring winter, but JUCO transfer Chase Vergason appears to have separated himself a bit from freshman T.J. Costen with strong performances in the weekend scrimmages.
Defensive back Ahmad Christian (not a typo) was also getting some looks at second base during winter practice. He was initially thought to be too unpolished (as a result of his football commitments) to make the opening day roster, and yet here he stands. But it would still be a shocker if he saw the field for the Yardcocks in 2011.
It will be no small task for the Vergason/Costen tandem to fill the shoes of the legendary, departed Scott Wingo, who will be most remembered for his heroic defensive performances in Omaha and having plus plus hair and rose red cheeks. After having a bat most accurately characterized as "good enough for second base" during his first three years in Columbia, Wingo put together a stellar .337/.467/.429 line in his finale. That is not an asset that will be easy to replace.
As you might imagine, detailed scouting reports on junior college players are hard to come by. (Not everyone is as college baseball crazed as we Gamecock fans are). So for now, I'm willing to accept Ray Tanner's seal of approval on Mr. Vergason. But T.J. Costen may yet push Vergason for plate appearances as the year wears on. Costen was very good at the plate in the scrimmages, but struggled with inconsistency in the field. Given his track record, it should be no surprise that Tanner went with the more defensively solid option. And, considering that he's being called upon to replace four fifths of his starting infield, it's hard to blame him.