Conway’s Holmes gets start against Mahattan ace Sewitt

South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner has been known for taking calculated risks. In winning back-to-back national championships, most of them have paid off.

But his mound switcheroo in today’s 4 p.m. NCAA Regional opener against Manhattan may be one of his larger gambles. He has decided to send junior right-hander Colby Holmes of Conway to the hill to face the Jaspers over left-handed ace and normal Friday starter Michael Roth.

Not that there’s a huge drop off in talent. Both pitchers are 6-1 on the season with Roth holding a 2.58 ERA to Holmes’ 3.39. But Holmes is coming off a month layoff with a shoulder injury and a sub-par showing at last week’s SEC Tournament.

“Colby had a really good outing here a couple of weeks ago against LSU,” Tanner said of Holmes, who is 1-0 with a 4.12 ERA in his NCAA Tournament career. “He did not pitch real well in the (SEC) tournament, but has postseason experience. He’s pitched in this environment before.

Making the move even more dangerous is the opposing pitcher – Manhattan ace Taylor Sewitt. The right-handed sidewinder is 11-1 on the season with a 2.40 ERA and hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 37 innings.

Perhaps Tanner is banking on his two-time reigning national champion Gamecocks (40-17) flexing their muscle and getting past the Jaspers (33-25) by sheer force. After all, they haven’t lost a home playoff game since 2002 and they are 21-1 overall in the past two postseasons.

It’s a great risk if it pays off. That would save Roth for the winner of the Clemson-Coastal Carolina game and give the Gamecocks a great chance to sit back in the winner’s bracket while the other three staffs wear themselves out fighting to stay alive.

“we felt like Michael would be a great matchup for Coastal or Clemson,” Tanner said. “We’re going to play Coastal or Clemson. That was the thought process going into it. It had nothing to do with nothing else other than that.”

Mix in the loss of starting catcher Grayson Greiner and the battery could be an issue that the bats can’t overcome. But these are the two-time defending champs facing a No. 4 seeded squad that has been to fewer NCAA Regionals than the Gamecocks’ have been to Omaha.

First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m., following the CCU-Clemson game at noon. The losers will play at noon Saturday followed by the two winners at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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