COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina baseball sophomore LT Tolbert couldn’t remember the last time he hit 2 home runs in a weekend. He guessed he did it during his junior season in high school.
But as has been the case with Tolbert in recent weeks, he provided the Gamecocks with a big offensive lift against Vanderbilt. He hit 3-run homers — his first homers of the season — this past Thursday and Saturday to continue his recent hot hitting.
“I’m seeing it well,” Tolbert said. “I am starting to get a lot more confident. I know that I need to step up right now and do some more things. I like that pressure.”
The Gamecocks second baseman has been on a tear recently, hitting .410 in his past 10 games to bring his team-leading batting average to .324.
Tolbert said he hasn’t made many adjustments to spur to his recent raking. The lone shift he made was shifting the angle of how he holds the bat knob, a small tweak his dad suggested from watching games at home.
Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook thinks the success is coming more from approach and mentality than it is from any technical twists.
“He has confidence,” Holbrook said. “He is stronger than he was a year ago and he is just more aggressive. He is swinging the bat with authority. He is not trying to punch the ball and guide the ball. He is trying to hit for some power. He is capable of hitting the ball over outfielders’ heads from time to time.
“He believes in himself a little bit more than he did a year ago. He was trying not to make a mistake last year. He is trying to do something productive now.”
The Piedmont, S.C., product is second on the team with 21 RBIs, also checking in third with a .448 slugging percentage.
Against Vanderbilt, Tolbert provided the offensive spark in two critical moments. His 3-run shot to right in the eighth inning of Thursday’s series opener helped the Gamecocks rally back from a 7-2 deficit before falling short 7-6. Then he crushed another 3-run homer to right on Saturday in the second inning, putting South Carolina out to the lead in a 6-1 win.
“If I’m in a good hitter’s count like that, I try to come unglued sometimes,” Tolbert said. “Most of the time, I like staying within myself. If I get a good pitch to drive and I can do that, it feels good.”
Tolbert joked he’s not ready to call himself a power hitter yet after the sudden power surge. He said he would need a couple more to get that status. But the lift he is providing game in and game out is clear, while he also has played errorless baseball in the field in his 28 games.
The Gamecocks face North Carolina on Tuesday at BB&T Park in Charlotte, N.C., before a home series against Mississippi State at Founders Park over the weekend.
“LT, he’s had a really quietly good year,” outfielder Alex Destino said. “He has a phenomenal year. Great weekend for him this weekend. Continuing into SEC play [and] then this Tuesday against a great [ACC] team, that’s huge for us.”