COLUMBIA ó South Carolina will begin its first season under coach Chad Holbrook ranked seventh in the Baseball America poll, which was released Thursday, a day after Perfect Game USA put USC at No. 11 in its preseason poll.
The Gamecocks finished second in both polls last season, when they lost to Arizona in the College World Series finals and fell just short of their third consecutive national championship.
USC returns five of eight position starters and two of three starting pitchers (senior right-hander Colby Holmes and sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery), but must replace key contributors such as No. 1 starting pitcher Michael Roth, closer Matt Price, right fielder Adam Matthews, center fielder Evan Marzilli and first baseman and leading hitter Christian Walker.
The likely brand new starters will be sophomore right fielder TJ Costen, freshman second baseman Max Schrock and freshman left fielder Graham Saiko, said Holbrook. Sophomore Tanner English has moved from left field to center to replace Marzilli.
After four seasons as Ray Tannerís top assistant, Holbrook debuts in the big job this season, as Tanner became USCís athletic director. USC opens the season Feb. 15, the start of a three-game series against Liberty, which is coached by former USC assistant Jim Toman.
The teams ahead of USC in the Baseball America poll are North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Louisville, Mississippi State and Oregon State.