Throughout this regional tournament, South Carolina saw several clutch performances. Take DC Arendas, who went 6-8 in Sunday's two games - including an HR and 3 RBI's - in relief of suspended 3B Jonah Bride (See SMcDowell93 and RantinRhonda for #FreeJonah T-Shirts). Then there was Hunter Taylor, the sophomore who wasn't even supposed to sniff the field, who had several clutch hits and the game-winning RBI to beat Rhode Island.
But the most important, and most unexpected, star was Tyler Johnson, who was thrust into the starting lineup an hour before the opening pitch on Sunday. Holbrook expected his closer to pitch four, maybe five innings of competent baseball, but Johnson notched a complete game with 11 K's, only surrendering 5 hits and 1 ER. That stat line is exceptional for a starter, and nearly unheard of for the usual closer - and it earned Johnson regional MVP honors. This helped out Coach Holbrook for today's game as he had nearly his entire staff ready to go if needed.
With Clarke Schmidt and Braden Webb already present as two established pitchers (despite a pair of tough appearances by Schmidt this weekend), and Adam Hill fresh off of an All-SEC Freshman campaign (and a strong outing in the blowout win over Rhode Island), could Johnson step in and be an effective starter during Super Regionals, and maybe beyond? Holbrook touched on that possibility in his postgame press conference, certainly not ruling out the possibility of seeing his regular reliever in the rotation.
"That will go down in Gamecock lore as far as performances...I honestly think he got better as the game went on. It was an incredible, special performance. How much he's improved from last year to this year is a testament to him and only him for his hard work."
Throw in Taylor Widener, Josh Reagan, and Reed Scott (and Johnson if he returns to the bullpen), and this staff could propel the team as far as the offense will allow. The addition of Johnson as a possible starter gives Coach Holbrook a backup plan and potential ace up his sleeve to deal with the talented lineups of title contenders.