COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Chad Holbrook is confident he’s the coach to lead South Carolina back to its NCAA Tournament success, despite missing the postseason for a second time in three seasons.
“I met with the team,” Holbrook said Tuesday. “We’re making progress and making plans to make sure that this doesn’t happen again in 2018.”
Because it has already happened twice in Holbrook’s five seasons has led to questions about his tenure.
Holbrook was the hand-picked successor in July 2012 for and by Ray Tanner, who was leaving as the Gamecocks baseball coach after national titles in 2010 and 2011 to become its athletic director. In 2015, Holbrook’s team ended a streak of 15 straight NCAA trips. A second miss in three seasons has left Holbrook the topic of angry radio callers and Twitter posters seeking change.
Holbrook said he has what it takes to get South Carolina’s righted and playing for additional championships.
“I feel great about who Chad Holbrook is. I have the utmost confidence in myself,” he said. “Have some things not gone our way? Absolutely. Sometimes, mistakes are made, but I feel great about my ability to coach this baseball program.”
Holbrook said he and Tanner have talked briefly over the weekend. The two will meet more extensively in person once Tanner returns from Southeastern Conference meetings in Destin, Florida.
The Gamecocks (35-25) lost in the NCAA’s super regional round last year and entered 2017 as a consensus top-five team. They opened 17-6 including going 5-1 in their first two SEC series.
Then the bottom dropped out. South Carolina lost its final eight league series to put itself on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. Holbrook said he had a feeling Sunday night as he went to bed the team would not be included in the field, a premonition that he saw borne out during Monday’s selections.
Holbrook believes the Gamecocks were bit by injuries and an inability to make that one game-changing play in key moments.
Clarke Schmidt, a projected first-round Major League Baseball draft pick, tore an elbow ligament in April, had Tommy John surgery and was gone for the rest of the year.
Other starters — catcher Chris Cullen and shortstop Madison Stokes — also were lost for the year with midseason injuries.
Closer Tyler Johnson, whose fastball hits the mid-to-high 90 mph range, was out for about five weeks with arm soreness.
“Is that an excuse? No. It’s just a fact that some of our best players could play and that it was difficult to overcome,” he said.
Holbrook believes the Gamecocks are positioned well to bounce back next spring.
Leading hitter Jacob Olson is a sophomore and outfielder Carlos Cortes was named to the SEC all-freshman team. The Gamecocks lose two starters in the rotation in Schmidt and Wil Crowe, another high round MLB draft prospect, but have some depth in freshmen starters Colby Lee and Cody Morris. A Gamecock signee, pitcher Logan Chapman of Easley, was named the state’s Gatorade player of the year that goes to the top player in South Carolina.
Right now, Holbrook will evaluate every aspect of his program to make sure he’s not rehashing another disappointing NCAA Tournament miss a year from now. He’ll look hard at his training program to make sure the team is doing all it can to prevent injuries.
“So many people have been supportive of me and my program,” he said. “I feel great about moving forward.”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.