COLUMBIA -- One of South Carolina's pitchers might hear his name called today as the baseball's draft begins, but it won't be the Gamecocks' ace.
Senior right-hander Blake Cooper isn't the object of the scouts' affections. He isn't lighting up their radar guns. He doesn't have the measurements.
Think South Carolina cares? Cooper's got 11 victories (to just one loss), including Saturday night's against The Citadel.
Cooper went 6 2/3 innings, giving up no earned runs (four runs) and striking out 12, a career high.
"You've got to be impressed by Blake Cooper. He's the underdog," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "He doesn't possess that (first-round) kind of ability. He's not that kind of guy, but he battles with the best of them."
Cooper is a mid-80s pitcher with his fastball, which means he has to be smart and use his four pitches to keep hitters guessing. The Bulldogs did quite often, especially early. Ten of Cooper's strikeouts came in the first four innings.
Cooper's slider, working away from right-handed batters, was particularly effective.
"He did to us what he's done to 11 other opponents," Citadel coach Fred Jordan said. "He just kind of carved us up."
Gamecocks draft look
One Gamecock might want to perk his ears this week, to see if he's taken in the first three rounds of the draft.
Junior right-hander Sam Dyson went in the 10th round last year, opting to return to school for another season.
Hitting the mid-90s with his fastball -- and a good, hard slider -- Dyson still has the stuff the majors will covet.
Dyson, 5-5 with a 4.00 ERA, struck out 100 batters in 111 1/3 innings. He got a no decision in his start Friday against Bucknell, going five innings and giving up three earned runs (four runs) while striking out seven.
Center fielder Whit Merrifield is a curious draft case. Merrifield's a consistent hitter and fielder, but he doesn't exactly look like your prototypical major leaguer. Based on character and intangibles, he'll likely be drafted relatively early. But early enough to skip his senior season?
The name of Citadel second baseman Bryan Altman does not appear on Baseball America's list of 36 players from the Palmetto State who could be taken in the draft starting today.
But Bulldogs coach Fred Jordan thinks it should. And the senior from Summerville did everything he could to prove it during the Columbia regional.
Altman batted .636 in three regional games, going 7 of 11 with three runs scored and four RBIs. He hit the three-run homer that gave the Bulldogs a brief 4-2 lead over South Carolina on Saturday night.
"It's like I told Alt in front of our ball club after the game," Jordan said. "The way he played on this national stage, if he does not get a chance to play pro baseball, that will really be sad."
One tough Hokie
Virginia Tech shortstop Tim Smalling proved his mettle in Sunday's game against The Citadel. Diving for a ground ball, the junior from Raleigh popped his shoulder out of place. He went to the dugout, used a towel to snap the shoulder back in, and then came out to make the next play.
"If that didn't fire up the club, I don't know what did," Hokies coach Pete Hughes said. "It got me fired up. That's a tough kid."
--The Citadel's 43 wins are the second-most in school history, behind only the 46 victories racked up by the 1990 College World Series team.
--The Bulldogs' 4-3 loss to Virginia Tech marked just the second time they lost this season while not committing an error (they are 14-2 in such games), and the sixth loss when holding a team to five runs or less (34-6).