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Hard work got Holmes where he is today

Colby Holmes' location Tuesday night sure beat where he was a year ago.

Holmes was South Carolina's starting pitcher Tuesday in the College World Series against Virginia. Last year, as a freshman who was not on USC's CWS roster, he had already joined the Florence Red Wolves of the Coastal Plain summer league.

"It was kind of upsetting," Holmes said. "But, in the big scheme of things, it gave me more motivation to work harder and get where I'm at."

Holmes was good, and not necessarily great, in the wood-bat league and in USC's fall practices. But he continued to show more and more consistency early in the 2011 season, and pitching coach Jerry Meyers slowly began to ease him into the weekend rotation during SEC play.

In nine SEC games (eight starts), Holmes managed a 4-2 record and 3.17 ERA in 48 1/3innings. That one relief appearance, actually, is what earned him the weekend job for good.

Holmes threw three scoreless innings in the deciding game at Florida to help the Gamecocks net a big series win against the then-No. 1 Gators.

The Conway native said being in Omaha now means more, because he was back home a year ago. Now Holmes' attention turns to how to manage his emotions pitching in front of about 20,000 fans.

"I'm just going to pitch like I've been pitching all year," he said. "It's a bigger crowd, but it's the same game. I've just got to go out there and throw."

Another lineup curveball

Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner shook up the lineup for the team's second game here. He continued to look wise, too.

Feeling confident in Jackie Bradley Jr. after his return from injury Sunday night, Tanner shifted Bradley from ninth to the cleanup spot in the order. Bradley hit an RBI double in his first at-bat, in the first inning.

Struggling DH Brady Thomas moved from fourth to sixth. Left fielder Jake Williams went from sixth to ninth. Williams' fourth-inning triple was his sixth of the year, tying the school record.

Tanner kept the team's hottest hitters, Scott Wingo (second) and Robert Beary (eighth), were they have been batting.

Sticking with him

After his seventh hitless game in his past 12 starts, some wondered if Thomas would fall from the lineup Tuesday, in favor of other DH options such as Steven Neff or Adam Matthews. Tanner, though, wanted his sixth-year man in the order.

Thomas was batting .345 after a three-hit game on May 14, but he was down to .305 by Tuesday.

"Brady's been there for us for a long time," Tanner said. "He's got stripes on his sleeves. He's the kind of guy if he struggles one night, he'll get two the next time."

Sure enough, Thomas doubled and singled in his first two at-bats against Virginia.

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