Monthly Archives: May 2012
It’s here. Post-season baseball. My equivalent of March Madness. I’ve tried for years to find a synonym for “madness” that starts with “J” so that I could come up with an alliterative catchphrase for the NCAA baseball tournament, but I haven’t found anything yet. Suggestions?
Last Sunday, the Regional field of 64 was set, along with host sites. Last Monday, the 8 National Seeds were announced. The Gamecocks, as they knew they would, are hosting the Columbia Regional. They also snagged the #8 national seed, which really means nothing except that it gives them home field advantage if they advance to the Super Regionals. Regionals start tomorrow (Friday) and run through Monday (if necessary). I suspect that most will be finished by Sunday. Regionals are a double elimination format. You can find a full schedule and bracket here. If you’re interested, you can take a look at my bracket. I realize that not all of you are crazy college baseball nuts like I am, so let’s get to the good stuff: breaking down the Columbia Regional.
#1: Gamecocks (#8 National Seed), 40-17
#2: Clemson , 33-26
#3: Coastal Carolina, 41-17
#4: Manahttan, 33-25
Don’t be fooled by any of those records. All of these teams are tough to beat. We’ve had information on the Gamecocks all season, so I’m going to focus on their opponents. But first, a few notes on the ‘Cocks.
Grayson Greiner. USC’s freshman phenom is out for the Regionals because he tore his left meniscus during practice on Thursday. For those of you who don’t speak medical jargon, it means he messed up his knee. Not really good news for the Gamecocks, since Greiner has been utterly stellar behind the plate this season. He’ll be replaced by backup Dante Rosenberg, who at least has seen some action this season. Knowing the mentality of this team, I feel fairly confident that Rosenberg will step up to the plate (heh. See what I did there?) and do a good job of filling Greiner’s shoes. Greiner had a successful surgery today, and the Gamecocks hope that he’ll be able to play in the Supers, though probably not as the catcher. Either way, it’s a huge loss.
Forrest Koumas. Koumas is also touch and go. He has an elbow injury, which may keep him off the field this weekend. As I understand it, he’s taking it one day at a time, and might be good to go for limited work. Certainly the Gamecocks wouldn’t want to throw (ha. I’m just full of puns today) Koumas into the fire before he’s ready. I think they’d rather wait until he’s closer to 100% and have him ready for the Supers or possibly Omaha.
Other than that, the Gamecocks should be firing on all cylinders. The likely pitching rotation is Michael Roth, Jordan Montgomery, and Colby Holmes, much like it was during the last few weeks of the regular season. Frankly, I think the Gamecocks can win their regional, but it won’t be easy. They’ll need to play at the level they did during the Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Auburn series if they want to win. If they look like they did in Hoover, y’all better go ahead and cancel your Omaha hotel reservations.
On to the other teams!
Clemson. Look. Clemson is a familiar face in these parts, so I don’t have much to say (partially because I can’t think of anything that won’t be venomous and partial to the Gamecocks) . They’re always tough to beat, no matter what their record is. If the Gamecocks end up playing Clemson, Columbia will be in chaos. That said, Clemson is going to have a tough time getting by Coastal in the opening game.
Coastal Carolina. Coastal is coming off of their 6th consecutive Big South Conference Championship win. Not only have they won the past 6 Big South tournaments, but also have won the last 6 conference titles. They are consistently good. Remember in 2010 when the Gamecocks had to beat Coastal in Myrtle Beach to advance to Omaha? Yeah. The Chanticleers are still playing at that level. Will it be enough to let the Chants win the Regional? Probably not, but I’m sure they can get by Clemson and Manhattan. My imaginary money is on a repeat of that 2010 Super Regional. Hopefully with the same outcome.
Manhattan. The Jaspers (yes, Jaspers. What is a Jasper you ask?) are also coming off of a conference tournament win. And they have their own version of Matt Price. Senior pitcher Taylor Sewitt threw 11 scoreless innings of relief in their tournament final to earn the win. Over the course of the MAAC tournament, Sewitt threw 296 pitches through 22 scoreless innings. And? He’s a submarining righthander. Basically what would happen if John Taylor and Matt Price had a love child. This kid is the real deal. The Jaspers were also the only D-1 team to go unbeaten at home this year. They may not have the greatest record, and they may be the smallest school in this regional, but don’t be surprised if the Jaspers get a win or two. In 2006, they played in their regional final before eventually falling to Miami.
So here’s how I think the Columbia regional will go:
Clemson will lose to Coastal in Game 1.
Manhattan will lose to Carolina (by 1 run) in Game 2.
Clemson will lose to Manhattan in Game 3 (the Jaspers’ pitching will help them here).
Carolina will lose to Coastal in Game 4.
Manhattan will lose to Carolina (another close game) in Game 5.
Coastal will lose to Carolina in Game 6 in extra innings.
Coastal will lose to Carolina in Game 7, and the Gamecocks will win the Regional.
Of course, if the NCAA and ESPN have their ways, it’ll be a Carolina/Clemson final for a spot in the Supers. I can’t tell you how much I hope that doesn’t happen. I’m sure all of the cardiologists in Columbia would have the opposite opinion.
All games in the Columbia regional will be shown on ESPNU. Games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are at noon and 4 p.m. EST. Monday’s game, if necessary, will be at 7:35 p.m.
I could very easily write this post in only caps lock and exclamation points, there were so many highlights to this past weekend’s series with Arkansas. I’ll do my best to refrain, but no promises.
Everyone knew what a big series this was. Heading into the series, Arkansas boasted an SEC leading team ERA of 2.61, which was also good enough to be 3rd nationally. As finicky as USC’s bats have been, it seemed like it might be an uphill battle. Fortunately for the Gamecock faithful, USC played a spectacular series of baseball. Even Saturday’s loss had some highlights. These may have been the most solid three games that the Gamecocks have played this year. If they can springboard that success into the upcoming games with Georgia and LSU, they will have put themselves in a prime position for another post season run.
ADAM MATTHEWS!!!! What a weekend for the senior rightfielder. Matthews threw out two runners at the plate on Sunday (!) and ignited the Gamecocks’ scoring drive in Sunday’s game with a two-out RBI single in the 7th.
GRAYSON GREINER!!!! The Gamecocks’ freshman catcher was behind the plate for each of the 28 innings played this weekend. He threw out five runners (!) over the course of the weekend. Greiner also was the key to Friday’s come-from-behind victory, hitting a 2-run home run, a sac fly, and an RBI single in the 10th. On Sunday, Greiner added another two RBI to his total, as he knocked in a pair with a single during the Gamecock’s big scoring rally in the 8th.
FORREST KOUMAS!!! After being out for a month with an injury, Koumas looked great through 5.1 innings on Sunday. It was only his second start of the year. He struck out four, walked two, gave up five hits, and, most importantly, did not allow a run. Not too shabby for a guy who hasn’t seen too much action this year.
CHASE VERGASON!!! The 2nd baseman hit .500 for the weekend, including a home run, two doubles, and 3 RBI. Vergason has been solid on defense all year too, and appears to have emerged as the everyday 2nd baseman down the stretch.
I could go on, citing each player on the Gamecocks’ roster and listing their accomplishments against Arkansas, but I think that would get too long, given that everyone contributed something this weekend.
Not that it was easy. Arkansas is a fantastic baseball team. The Razorbacks led the Gamecocks in each of the three games. If not for the ‘Cocks finally figuring out how to rally, Arkansas would have had the sweep. This was one of the best played and hardest fought series of the year. I have no doubt that the Razorbacks will enjoy a nice post-season run – they have all the tools to play deep into June. Right now, it looks like the Gamecocks are getting hot at the right time, so it may be that these two teams face each other again in a month. But, baseball is a fickle game, which is part of its beauty. Anything can happen, but frankly, I’d be surprised not to see one, if not both, of these teams playing in Omaha in June.
vs. Furman – 5/9 at 7 p.m. (FS South / FS Carolinas)
at Georgia – 5/11 at 7 p.m.
at Georgia – 5/12 at 1 p.m. (CSS / TWC Channel 506)
at Georgia – 5/13 at 2 p.m.
The Gamecocks are currently ranked #4 in the Baseball America poll, #3 in the NCBWA poll, and #3 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Gamecocks are currently tied for 1st place in the SEC with LSU, and is one game ahead of Kentucky in the SEC East.