By Jeff Owens/Photo by Jenny Dilworth
With a possible spot in the NCAA Tournament on the line, the South Carolina baseball team has now lost two more key starters for the rest of the season.
The team announced Tuesday morning that catcher Chris Cullen would miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to remove torn cartilage in his left knee. Cullen, who has battled knee problems all season, was batting .276 with five home runs and 18 RBI with a .377 on-base percentage.
Hunter Taylor and John Jones have shared catching duties while Cullen has been injured.
The news got worse Tuesday afternoon when the team announced that shortstop Madison Stokes will miss the rest of the season with a broken wrist sustained when he was hit by a pitch Saturday against Missouri.
Stokes, a junior, had started 47 games at shortstop, batting .224 with three home runs and 17 RBI. Second baseman LT Tolbert will likely slide over to shortstop with Justin Row playing second.
South Carolina has been plagued by injuries this season, including the loss of ace pitcher Clarke Schmidt to Tommy John surgery. Closer Tyler Johnson missed 20 games with a sore arm, while Tolbert and center fielder TJ Hopkins also have been hampered by injuries.
The Gamecocks (30-21, 12-15 in the SEC) host USC Upstate at Founders Park tonight before playing its final SEC series at home this weekend against Georgia.
South Carolina will travel to Hoover, Ala. next week for the SEC tournament, hope to finish the season strong enough to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament.