**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**
Pitching outlook for Wednesday
Prior to the start of the SEC Tournament, head coach Chad Holbrook said that there was a possibility Wil Crowe could start on Wednesday if the Gamecocks won their first game. However, after South Carolina picked up a 7-4, 11-inning win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Holbrook said Crowe would not be ready to go against Kentucky on Wednesday.
The fourth-year junior threw 120 pitches in his last start on Thursday, May 18, and needs a little more time to recover. Holbrook said that he would almost certainly start on Thursday for the Gamecocks, who are now in the double-elimination portion of the bracket.
As for who starts Wednesday against the Wildcats, it will likely by a committee approach. Cody Morris is fresh, as is Colie Bowers and John Parke. Those three guys will almost certainly see action. Tyler Johnson is likely done for a few days after throwing 73 pitches and South Carolina won't have Reed Scott either after he threw 82 pitches. Josh Reagan threw 48 pitches against Vanderbilt, and he could be available again.
Thrusted into the lineup after Madison Stokes' season-ending injury, Row has impressed with his bat. He was 3-for-4 with his first career home run in a win over USC Upstate, and had an impressive series against Georgia last weekend, scoring five runs and recording two RBI in the three games.
The junior college transfer kept it going in the SEC Tournament on Tuesday. Batting second in the lineup, Row was 2-for-4 with three runs scored, a home run and two important sacrifice bunts in the win over the Commodores.
Row reached on an error in the first and scored on Carlos Cortes' two-run home run. He then hit a homer of his own in the third inning before laying down two sacrifice bunts later on. He capped his day with a double in the 11th inning that started South Carolina's game-winning rally.
Because of the various injuries to several position players, Row's production is extremely important for the Gamecocks, who are fighting for their postseason lives.
LT Tolbert is banged up entering Wednesday's game against Kentucky. He's dealing with a knee injury and wrist problems, according to Holbrook. The sophomore has dealt with migraines recently as well, but his coach has been proud of the way he's persevered.
Tolbert was lifted for a pinch-runner late in the game on Tuesday, and it's not known if he'll be in the lineup on Wednesday.
"There's not a kid that plays harder and gives us more energy and want-to than LT," Holbrook said. "He's laying it on the line for our team."
Jacob Olson was not in the starting lineup for Tuesday's win over Vanderbilt because of an illness. Holbrook revealed after the game that his sophomore has strep throat. Olson came into the game in the eighth inning and drew two walks and scored one run. He'll more than likely play in some capacity on Wednesday.
"Hoover Met" is known as a pitcher-friendly ballpark, and the Gamecocks entered Tuesday's game without a home run in the park since 2014. However, South Carolina blasted three home runs in the first three innings to get off to a quick start. The total tied a season high.
"It was just one of those days," Holbrook said. "We've got some bat speed and we've got some pop, and it's good to see the guys square some balls up."
Carlos Cortes hit a two-run shot in the first inning, Jonah Bride added a solo home run in the second and Justin Row added another solo bomb in the third.
South Carolina has struggled offensively this season, but not in hitting home runs. The Gamecocks entered the SEC Tournament tied for third in the SEC with 50 home runs on the season.
Reversing a trend
Throughout the season, South Carolina has given up late-inning leads and were 2-3 in extra innings entering the matchup against Vanderbilt. However, the Gamecocks bounced back from Vanderbilt tying the game twice to pull out in the win in 11 innings.
"I couldn't be prouder of my team," Holbrook said. "They've had a lot thrown on top of them at a lot of different points this season. They knew that our backs were against the wall, and they played their tails off. Our kids didn't lose their cool."