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2015 Gamecock Baseball Preview: Defense

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Today's entry in our preview looks at the defense, which should be a strength of the team this season

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the departure of several talented players, the Gamecocks should field an excellent defense this season. The infield in particular is both talented and deep, and Coach Holbrook has expressed his confidence that the quality of USC's infielders will help the Gamecocks be in a position to win games.

One huge piece of the defense for the Gamecocks is senior first baseman Kyle Martin, who opted to return for the 2015 season rather than go pro after being drafted in the 20th round last year.  Martin, who started every game last season, had the best fielding percentage (.995) of any returning player that played in at least half of last year's games. His talent for making great plays, as well as his experience and leadership, will be invaluable to the team this season.

Junior infielder Max Schrock missed much of last season with various injuries, most notably to his ankle and back. However, as Holbrook has noted on more than one occasion in the past few months, Schrock's offseason rehab went extremely well and he looks to be in great shape for 2015. Schrock has lost weight and is working hard to be faster and more agile; as a result he should be improved on both offense and defense.

Schrock is among the five players competing for the remaining infield spots of second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman. The others are Jordan Gore, Marcus Mooney, DC Arendas, and Madison Stokes, who have all been impressive in the preseason. Holbrook has said that with all five of those players pushing for playing time, it's possible that a couple of them will see some time in the outfield.

There are several players vying for time in the outfield as well. Sophomore Gene Cone has improved as a player and looks to have the center field spot locked down. The corner outfield spots are less sure. Senior right fielder Connor Bright will likely see significant playing time, but has missed some preseason scrimmages due to illness. Elliott Caldwell and Patrick Harrington have both impressed Holbrook in the preseason, and again there are infielders (most likely Schrock and Gore) that could see playing time in the outfield too.

South Carolina's biggest question on defense entering the season is how well they can replace Grayson Greiner at catcher. Holbrook has said that the two front-runners for the job, sophomore Logan Koch and freshman Hunter Taylor, will likely split time behind the plate over the course of the season and that he doesn't see that position as being a weakness. Though he's not sure how exactly the playing time would be split, Holbrook feels that both players have earned a chance and that having two regular catchers will help them each stay fresh over the course of the season.

All in all, the Gamecocks look to be in a strong position defensively. While there is some uncertainty about which players will start which position, having more players capable of starting than actual positions to start them at is always a great problem to have. Holbrook will have the flexibility to move players around and find the lineup that works best and South Carolina has the depth to deal with setbacks from injury or illness.