COLUMBIA -- Power wasn't a problem for South Carolina's baseball team in its first weekend of play, but the Gamecocks don't mind adding another big bat as they prepare for a tough road trip.
First baseman Nick Ebert, the 2009 team's leader in home runs and RBIs, has been reinstated after spending a couple of months in academic peril.
"That's great news for us," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "He's ready to go."
It's just in time for No. 10 South Carolina, which travels to begin a three-game series today at 22nd-ranked East Carolina. The Pirates bounced the Gamecocks from last season's NCAA Tournament in a deciding game.
Senior Jeff Jones filled in for Ebert this past weekend in USC's sweep of Duquesne, hitting three home runs and driving in 10 of the team's 27 runs in the series.
Jones was supposed to start at first last season, but Ebert came out of nowhere to take the job and lead the team in the middle of the lineup.
Now, Tanner will work to find a spot for both Ebert and Jones. They'll alternate this weekend between first base and designated hitter, but Tanner has vowed both will get plenty of at-bats.
Additionally, injured outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is getting closer to a full return to action. Bradley suffered a break in his right hand just before the start of the season, but he's ahead of schedule in his rehab. The versatile, athletic sophomore came in as a defensive replacement in center field during the Duquesne series. He's expected to do the same this weekend at ECU.
Batting is the issue for Bradley. He's working toward regaining enough strength in the hand to be cleared for hitting.
Tanner hinted that Bradley might be ready to start next weekend, when the Gamecocks have a three-game, home-and-away series against Clemson.
More than likely, though, Bradley will be held another week beyond the Clemson series.