Weber Pike wanted to do what he had always done, what felt natural -- to dig in the batter's box and battle pitchers.
The former Beaufort High School standout welcomed the challenge of facing some of the country's top pitching as a freshman at South Carolina last spring.
But a stubborn hand injury required surgery. Pike headed for a redshirt and did not swing at a pitch until arriving on campus again this past fall.
Finally able to swing pain-free, Pike earned praise from Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook for his tenacity with the bat. Pike hopes to see time as a designated hitter or pinch hitter and has played some in the field during preseason scrimmages.
The Gamecocks open the season Saturday against Bucknell.
"I'm just going to have to perform when I get a chance -- that's pretty much what it comes down to," Pike said Wednesday. "Because everybody gets a chance, no matter who you are. I like how Coach Holbrook will really give everybody a chance."
Pike didn't have much of a chance as a true freshman.
The hand injury he suffered his senior season at Beaufort High never healed. Scar tissue built up around the hamate bone in Pike's left hand, causing chronic pain despite no fracture.
The summer after graduating in Beaufort, he kept the hand in a cast and received regular cortisone shots. But he couldn't hit for the Gamecocks that fall and didn't improve during the spring.
After learning he would redshirt, Pike opted for surgery. Doctors removed the scar tissue from his hand in April 2013.
Pike spent last summer rehabilitating the hand with Kevin Green and Jim Denton at Carolina Sportscare. He began hitting off a tee in July but didn't hit an actual pitch until he returned to Columbia.
He played well enough during the fall scrimmages to earn praise from Holbrook for his quality at-bats. Holbrook counted only three strikeouts in Pike's 70 at-bats during the fall.
"If you ask me right now, if the game is on the line and I had to have a pinch hitter in there, and there's a runner on third base with less than two outs, Weber would probably be the first guy I'd put in there," Holbrook told reporters to end the fall. "That's how much he has impressed me this fall. Is he going to be an everyday player? I don't know. Can he DH and give you good at-bats? Yes he can."
Pike knows his options are limited in the field but said he has played some in the outfield and at first base during scrimmages.
His bat holds more sway. There was an adjustment period as Pike learned to work against his teammates' pitching.
Pike said he returned to the mindset that helped him dominate pitching in high school, when he was not known for his power but as a nearly impossible out. He hit .544 as a senior at Beaufort High and drove in 20 runs despite playing the final seven games with what he thought was a stress fracture.
"I just kind of do the same thing I always do, just try to fight as hard as I can every at-bat," Pike said. "Just try to win every battle."