“When you’ve got brother vs. brother, they’ve got a tendency to go at it pretty good. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Patrick stick one in his ribs,” John Sullivan said. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Nothing like a little sibling rivalry to spice up a midweek matchup.
Sean, who is a year ahead of his brother, is the Eagles’ starting right fielder. The redshirt sophomore is hitting .315 with five home runs and 27 RBIs for Winthrop (21-21), which has not played USC since 1999.
Patrick, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander, has pitched three innings this season after redshirting as a freshman. He has not appeared in a game since March 16 at Furman, but he has been lobbying USC coach Ray Tanner for the chance to face his brother.
“It’s going to be weird,” Patrick said Tuesday before the Gamecocks’ practice.
The Sullivan boys were born 18 months apart to a couple of former USC athletes.
John was a Gamecocks third baseman from 1981-84 who later coached under June Raines for eight seasons. Sue Sullivan was a USC volleyball player whose two sons were steered into athletics at an early age.
“They didn’t really give us the opportunity to sit around and watch TV,” Sean said of his parents.
Instead, the boys played basketball and street hockey in the driveway of their Forest Acres home, ran the bases and shagged flies at Sarge Frye Field, and attended all manner of sports camps at USC.
“Any sport, any ball we could get a hold of – we’d play,” Patrick said.
Injuries ended their football careers. But the boys stuck with baseball, playing on Little League and travel teams coached by their father.
The two were teammates on A.C. Flora’s state championship squad in 2007. Patrick was the seldom-used closer, while Sean was the starting shortstop.
Sean was recruited by USC but went to Winthrop after Tanner signed Scott Wingo as a middle infielder. Patrick was A.C. Flora’s ace his senior year but pitched in pain the first half of the season with a back injury later diagnosed as a stress fracture.
Patrick was interested in Winthrop but chose USC because of its biology program (he plans to go to med school).
Both brothers are good students, which has cost their parents some of their retirement funds. Anticipating straight-As his first semester at USC, Patrick asked his father if he would give him $100 for each of his As.
John agreed, provided Patrick’s GPA was 4.0. Patrick missed the payoff when he received a B-plus in a biology class, although Sean has cashed in a few times after striking the same deal.
“As soon as I heard about that, I was like, ‘I want that deal, too,'” said Sean, a sport management major who is thinking about enrolling in law school and pursuing a career as a sports agent.
“Lately Sean’s been getting the better grades,” said Patrick, “so I’ve got some catching up to do.”
It is that competitive spirit that makes Sean skeptical that his brother would waste a chance to show him up by hitting him with a pitch.
“I think Patrick’s the type of person, he would want to do anything to get me out just because I’m his big brother and he’s competitive like that.”
Tanner said Patrick, who is a walk-on, has thrown well and would have pitched more innings this season if not for the depth of the bullpen. Tanner has been helping fuel the sibling rivalry by occasionally mentioning Sean’s stats to Patrick throughout the season.
“(Patrick) is a guy that’s going to get to pitch here in the future,” Tanner said. “And if it’s possible to get him in the game, I’m going to try to do that.”
As for his father’s prediction that he might come inside on his brother, Patrick smiled and said:
“If that’s the scouting report, I might. I’m just going to try to get him out.”