Gamecocks #8 National Seed; Set to host Columbia Regional


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.

Teams 
#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.

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Gamecocks and Razorbacks battle it out in a stellar 3 game series


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.

Upcoming Games:
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.

Gamecocks sweep Mississippi State; Travel to Auburn next


Man, did the Gamecocks need that sweep of Mississippi State this weekend.  It finally put the Gamecocks over .500 in the SEC, and put them back in position to contend for both a hosting gig and a national seed in the post-season.

The series wasn’t necessarily pretty , but somehow, this week, the Gamecocks managed to find a way to win.  #winanyway, as it were.  (Side note: are we still using that hashtag this season?  If not, do we have a new one?)

Friday night, Michael Roth just wasn’t on.  He wasn’t off…he just wasn’t as effective as he normally is.  Not a big deal.  Even our ace pitcher is allowed to have an off day.  By the 7th inning, the Gamecocks were trailing by 3 after giving up a 3 run lead.  Thankfully, in the 8th inning, the Gamecocks bats came alive, as Grayson Griener led off the inning with a home run and pinch hitter Sean Sullivan slammed a two-out triple to tie the game.  Thanks to a Mississippi State wild pitch, Sullivan went on to score what became the winning run.  Matt Price came in and earned the save. Truly a win in the spirit of Friday the 13th.

Freshman (and apparent new Saturday starter) Jordan Montgomery threw 6.1 innings on Saturday afternoon, giving up only 1 run.  Matt Price (again) earned the save.  The Gamecocks put 5 on the board on a string of 2 out hits through the first 6 innings.   Things were a little touch-and-go for the Gamecocks as they gave up 3 runs in the 7th, but they managed to hang on and win 5-3, cementing the series victory.

On an utterly gorgeous, albeit hot, Sunday afternoon, Colby Holmes took the mound to try to lead the Gamecocks to their first SEC sweep of the season.  Holmes pitched 8.1 innings, gave up 4 runs, and only 8 hits.  Tyler Webb earned the save.  The  pitching staff was well supported by their offense, as the Gamecocks tallied 11 hits and 6 runs.  They were helped along by a pair of Mississippi State errors, but a win is a win, right?  Right.  The Gamecocks won 6-4 to complete the sweep of the Bulldogs.

Some things of note:
Grayson Greiner.  The freshman catcher hit two doubles and a solo home run in the series against Mississippi State plus a grand slam in Tuesday night’s game against the Citadel.  That was good enough to earn him SEC Freshman of the Week honors this week.  Well played Mr. Greiner.  Congratulations!

Jordan Montgomery.  It appears that the freshman lefty has cemented his spot in the weekend rotation.  Montgomery allowed one run on three hits last weekend against Tennessee, which was good enough to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors.  He then came out and pitched another stellar 6+ innings against Mississippi State.  Montgomery now boasts a 2.48 ERA with 31 strikeouts, 4 walks, and a 3-0 record.  For reasons beyond my control, I’ve missed the past two Saturday games, so I have yet to see Montgomery pitch live, but everything I’ve heard has been praise.

LB Dantzler.  His batting average might not show it, but Dantzler has 30 RBI, good enough for 11th place in the SEC.  He also drove in 5 runs in the Mississippi State series.  He has been pretty steady at 3rd base too, helping to anchor the infield.

The 2nd Base Question.  It still doesn’t seem like Coach Tanner has made a firm decision about his second baseman.  Or maybe he’s decided to just go with two and switch them up as necessary.   I said in this post that whomever started the Clemson series at 2nd base would win the starting job.  That was Chase Vergason, and he’s certainly been back in the lineup more recently.  He’s gotten some hits when the Gamecocks needed them and his defense has been solid.  I wouldn’t rule out Erik Payne yet, but as good as Vergason has looked lately, he may be a more likely day-to-day guy.

Traveling to Auburn.  The Tigers are 19-16 (7-8 SEC).  They lost two of three to Vanderbilt this weekend.  To be honest, I haven’t heard much about Auburn baseball this year, so I don’t have too much to say.  An SEC series on the road is always a tough atmosphere, but if the Gamecocks can continue to build on the momentum they gathered during the Mississippi State series, they should be able to walk away with a win or two.  Or three.

Upcoming games:
vs. College of Charleston – 4/17, 7 p.m. (on SportsSouth)
at Auburn – 4/20, 7 p.m.
at Auburn – 4/21, 4 p.m. (on SportsSouth)
at Auburn – 4/22, 2 p.m.

The Gamecocks are now 27-10 (8-7 SEC).  They are ranked #9 in the Baseball America poll and #13 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

Gamecocks to host Tennessee this weekend


It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Gamecocks.   After getting swept at Kentucky, they appeared to bounce back the next weekend against Florida.  USC took the first game of the series (televised on ESPNU) in decisive fashion, winning 8-3.  The Gators did the same to the Gamecocks in Game 2.  Game 3 was hard fought, but the ‘Cocks couldn’t pull it out in the end, and Florida took the series.  Desperately needing an SEC series win, the Gamecocks headed to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt – who also desperately needed an SEC series win.  The Gamecocks took 2 of 3 from the Commodores, despite an abysmal showing on Saturday afternoon.  Winning the Vandy series and then shutting out the College of Charleston earlier this week, may have given the Gamecocks some momentum as they head into a series with Tennessee this weekend.

Some things of note:

Matt Price.  Looks like his move back to the bullpen is permanent.  At least until Forrest Koumas’ elbow situation is resolved.  And even then, Price may be more valuable in the ‘pen then as a starter.

Saturday starter.  Moving Price back to the closer’s role also leaves a gaping hole in the weekend rotation.  Last week, freshman Evan Beal got the Saturday start.  To say it was rocky is an understatement.  This weekend, the Gamecocks are putting their faith in freshman lefty Jordan Montgomery.  Montgomery has had a few mid-week starts, and his numbers are pretty decent, but we’ll see how he does on Saturday night against an SEC opponent.

Michael Roth.  Roth has been named the 2011-2012 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year.  That means he gets a $15,000 post-grad scholarship.  Well done Mr. Roth.  Gamecock Nation is exceptionally proud of you.

Evan Marzilli.  Marzilli has been on base in every single one of the 29 games played so far this season.   That’s just an absurd statistic, but it goes to show why he is our leadoff man.

Brison Celek.  The sophomore has been in the DH spot recently.  And he’s certainly been doing his part.  Celek’s average is .353, which is good enough to give him the second highest average on the team (just remember, he’s only played in 16 games).

Christian Walker.  Walker got his 200th career hit during the Vanderbilt series.  He now has 207, and is currently #23 on the list of Carolina’s all-time hits leaders.  And the season is only halfway done.

Next Up:
vs. Tennessee (4/6 at 7 p.m.)
vs. Tennessee (4/7 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU)
vs. Tennessee (4/8 at 1:30 p.m.)

The Gamecocks currently have a 21-8 record (3-6 SEC).  The Gamecocks are ranked #11 in the Baseball America poll and #18 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

Gamecocks swept by Kentucky; Look to improve against Florida


I think the only appropriate way to start this post is by congratulating the Kentucky baseball team on their 21-0 record.  That’s an amazing feat in college baseball, and sweeping the Gamecocks this weekend showed that the Wildcats cannot be discounted.  Well played Kentucky.

I’ve put off recapping the Kentucky series because I just don’t know what to say.  The Gamecocks had the lead in both of the first two games of the series, but couldn’t manage to hold on to it.  They were able to tie the Sunday game, but couldn’t push ahead. Why?  Well, once again, the Gamecocks had a problem with leaving runners on base.  Over the course of the weekend, they stranded 29 runners.  That doesn’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re playing on the road against a team who has an 18 game winning streak on the line, you better be able to bring your runners home.  As the SEC season starts, fundamentals become increasingly important.  Bunts must be laid down, routine fly balls cannot be dropped, baserunning mistakes cannot be made, and throws must be on point.  The Gamecocks made these kinds of errors (except for the throwing…I don’t remember any offline throws), and it cost them.  Hopefully on what I imagine was an exceptionally long bus ride back from Lexington, they were able to reflect and come out with a renewed determination to win.

Looking ahead.  The Gamecocks host the top-ranked Florida Gators on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  I think it’s safe to say that every baseball fan in both Columbia and Gainesville has had this weekend marked on their respective calendars since last June when the ‘Cocks defeated the Gators to win the CWS.  Even better?  ESPNU is kicking off it’s college baseball coverage in Columbia for the Thursday night game.

Florida is number 1 for reason.  The Gators returned an awful lot of players from last year’s team, giving them a pretty cohesive unit to begin with.  South Carolina took 2 of 3 from Florida last year in Gainesville, and then of course, won both games in the CWS final.  Florida is coming off a sweep of Vanderbilt, whereas the Gamecocks are coming off being swept by Kentucky.  Florida has the advantage when it comes to hitting: their team average is .309.  USC’s is .285.  South Carolina has the better team ERA (2.23).  Florida’s  is 2.67.  The Gators also lead the SEC in slugging percentage and have allowed the fewest walks in the league.  Of course, opponents are also hitting .241 against them.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this series.  After last weekend, the Gamecocks have a lot to prove.  They need to be essentially flawless this weekend if they want to have a hope of beating Florida.  I don’t think the Gators are invincible, but I guarantee they are beyond prepared to come to Columbia this weekend.  The Gators are going to play solid baseball, and South Carolina had better be prepared for it.  The way I see it, this is a make-it-or-break-it type weekend for the Gamecocks.  If they can rebound from the losses against Kentucky, stop making mental errors, and improve on bringing runners home, I think we’ll be ok.  If not….it’s going to be an awfully long season in Columbia.

Some things of note.

  • Ray Tanner earned his 1,100 career victory with the Gamecocks’ victory over Furman on Tuesday night.
  • Michael Roth took over the DH role on Tuesday night, after pinch hitting during the Kentucky series.
  • Joey Pankake was back in the starting lineup this weekend.  He was 2-2 on Saturday.
  • Erik Payne has been utterly stellar at the plate this season with a .419 average and a .710 slugging percentage.
  • Hunter Privette has some filthy pitches in his repertoire.  Talk about a fun pitcher to watch.

Upcoming Games.

  • At home vs. FloridaThursday 3/22 at 7:30 (televised on ESPNU)
  • At home vs. Florida, Friday 3/23 at 7 p.m. (televised on CSS)
  • At home vs. Florida, Saturday 3/24 at 1 p.m. (televised on CSS)

The Gamecocks are 16-4 on the season.  They are currently ranked #8 in the Baseball America poll and #6 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

Gamecocks sweep Princeton; Prepare to open SEC season at Kentucky


The Gamecocks took on UNC-Asheville in a midweek contest and then hosted Princeton for the weekend series.  Carolina emerged victorious in all four games, bringing their season record to 13-1.  They’ll host Charleston Southern on Tuesday night and Appalachian State on Wednesday night before heading to Kentucky to open SEC play.

I want another one of these.

So what happened this weekend?  Some good things and some slightly less good things.

Good news first.  Carolina’s pitching staff combined for 35 strikeouts this weekend.  Impressive by any standard.  What’s more impressive is that to balance those 35 Ks, the Gamecocks only issued 3 walks.  That’s pretty much unheard of.  The staff gave up 18 hits, and finished with a 1.00 ERA on  the weekend.  That brings the stats-to-date to 143 strikeouts, 34walks, 71 hits, 26 runs, a .157 opponent batting average, and a 1.55 ERA in 127.1 innings.  It’s ok if you needed to read that sentence several times.  It doesn’t sound believable.  And here’s the best part:  It’s not just the starters who are contributing to these numbers.  The Carolina bullpen has been lights-out for the most part. And, if we’ve learned anything in the past two years, it’s that depth of pitching wins championships.  We’ll see how the Gamecocks do against an SEC opponent this weekend, but I have hope.

Not so good news next.  Where, oh where, has the Gamecock offense gone?  With the exception of Kyle Martin, Evan Marzilli, Erik Payne, and Christian Walker, the bats were pretty silent this weekend.  The Gamecocks struck out 18 times in three days.  But that wasn’t the worst of it.  They stranded 32 runners.  32.  That concerns me.  32 runners stranded against Princeton.  That’s something that has to change, or the Gamecocks won’t be able to make it through the SEC season, let alone have the chance for another title run.

The middle infield question.  Ray Tanner made some changes up the middle this weekend, and they definitely surprised me.  First, Connor Bright started every game at shortstop.  Bright had been vying for the starting role at 2nd base, but apparently he got the start at SS after Joey Pankake’s defensive struggles last weekend.  Bright did a nice job at short, but whether or not it was good enough to earn him a permanent starting role remains to be seen.  Even more surprising was seeing Erik Payne at 2nd base.  Payne was the backup utility infielder last season, but didn’t see much time playing behind Adrian Morales.  If you recall, Payne hadn’t even been in the conversation about the 2nd base job, and frankly, I thought that Chase Vergason had pretty much wrapped up the starting job after the Clemson series.  Looks like I was wrong.  Payne had a great weekend, both in the field and at the plate.  He had four hits over the course of the weekend, including an RBI double and a huge home run.  Looks like he’s a legitimate contender for the starting job.  He and Bright made quite the formidable pair this weekend, so maybe Coach Tanner has found what he’s looking for?

Weekend Preview: At Kentucky.  The Gamecocks will hit the road this weekend to take on Kentucky in the opening weekend of SEC play.  The Wildcats are 16-0 on the season.  They are also the only NCAA team without a loss.  Kentucky owns the best team batting average in the SEC at .349 with 16 home runs.  Their pitching is pretty top notch too, with a 3.25 team ERA with 163 strikeouts in 144 innings (that’s 16.2 more innings than the Gamecocks have played).  On paper, this is set to be a terrific weekend series.  If the Gamecocks can find their bats, stop stranding runners, and continue to pitch as they have been, they may have a shot at handing UK their first loss(es) of the season.  If USC doesn’t find a way to get those runners home, Kentucky is going to have an easy road to victory.  I’d say the Gamecocks have the better all-around pitching staff, but Kentucky’s hitters definitely have one leg up on Carolina.  Get ready for three extremely hard fought games.  The only prediction I have is that the team who makes the fewest mistakes will get the win(s).


This week’s games:
vs. Charleston Southern – 3/13, 7 p.m.
vs. Appalachian State – 3/14, 7 p.m.
at Kentucky – 3/16, 7 p.m. (CSS)
at Kentucky – 3/17, 2 p.m.
at Kentucky – 3/18, 1 p.m. (FS South / FS Carolinas)

Carolina takes 2 of 3 from Clemson on rivalry weekend


As expected, the Carolina / Clemson series this weekend was fantastic.  This rivalry is my favorite weekend of the regular season.  It is always a series of really good baseball, intensity, and determination to best the other team.  Plus it’s usually pretty entertaining to see how creative each fan base can be when it comes to heckling.

I couldn’t make it to Friday night’s game in Charleston, though apparently my cousin was visiting Charleston and his hotel room overlooked center field, which meant that he got to see Evan Marzilli’s game ending (and game saving) catch.  I, on the other hand, was straining to hear the outcome of the game over the noise of the bar where my friends and I were spending our Friday night.  I did make it to Saturday’s game, where I discovered that it would be much better if my seats were on the aisle so I could get up and pace when the Gamecocks make me nervous.  By Sunday, someone who knows something about college baseball finally decided that one of the best rivalries should be able to be watched by the masses, so the computer got hooked up to the TV and I got to see the Gamecocks on the big screen, courtesy of ESPN3.

Matt Price fires one in on Saturday afternoon

Read the rest of this entry

Gamecock Baseball Weekly Recap. And Carolina/Clemson Weekend Preview


Let’s start with a celebration…
Congratulations to Michael Roth on being named SEC Co-Pitcher of the Week! Roth is sharing the honor with Bobby Wahl of Ole Miss.

Scoreboard right before starting Saturday's game against Elon.

It was another great weekend for Gamecock Baseball, as the Yardcocks swept Elon in their second series of the season.  The Gamecocks won decisively in two of the three games (8-1 on Friday and 6-0 on Sunday), and pulled off another close victory on Saturday, defeating the Phoenix 3-2. USC went on to defeat Presbyterian in their first mid-week game, 2-1.

Once again, the Gamecocks pitching staff was on fire, combining for 32 strikeouts on the weekend, and adding another 6 on Tuesday evening.  The hero of Tuesday’s game would have to be freshman shortstop, Joey Pankake.  He launched a home run into the Blue Hose bullpen to break a 4th inning tie.  Of course, he may have had a little luck on his side as Tuesday was National Pancake Day.

It was another solid set of games for the Gamecocks.  The bats started to get going, the pitching remains almost scarily good, and the new players are settling in.  There is still the question of who will be the regular starter at 2nd base.  I haven’t seen all three contenders play there yet so I’m reserving judgment.  I’d be willing to bet that whoever starts the Clemson series will end up with the starting job.

And speaking of the Clemson series…it starts Friday night.  The Gamecocks and the Tigers will play game 1 on Friday night in Charleston (Clemson will be the home team), game 2 in Columbia, and game 3 in Clemson.  Just like any time Carolina and Clemson meet in a sporting event, this series promises heated competition.  Last year USC took two of three from the Tigers.  And let’s not forget the 2010 CWS when the Gamecocks beat the Tigers twice to make it to the championship series and ultimately to win the title.  There’s no doubt that these games will be intense.
The Tigers seemed to struggle in their series against Maine last weekend, losing the opening game of the series but then bouncing back to win games two and three.  The same thing happened during the first weekend of the season against UAB.  Both losses were only by one run, though it should be noted that in the loss to Maine, all of Maine’s runs came with two outs.  There’s no doubt that Clemson is a tough team, and they always seem to show up to play against Carolina.

So let’s do a little comparison:
Carolina overall record: 7-0
Clemson overall record: 4-2

Carolina team ERA: 0.83 (prior to the PC game)
Clemson team ERA: 2.83

Carolina opp. batting average: .102 (prior to PC)
Clemson opp. batting average: .290
Carolina pitching through 54 innings: 18 hits, 68 Ks, 12 walks
Clemson pitching through 54 innings: 60 hits, 45 Ks, 16 walks

Carolina batting (prior to PC): .292 avg, .349 on base percentage, .422 slugging percentage
Clemson batting: .285 avg, .384 on base percentage, .440 slugging percentage

Carolina fielding (prior to PC): .982
Clemson fielding: .967

On paper it looks like the teams are pretty evenly matched at the plate, with a very slight edge going to Clemson. USC has that same edge when it comes to pitching. It will be interesting to see how Clemson’s potent lineup matches up against USC’s stellar pitching.

Upcoming Schedule:
Friday in Charleston, 6 p.m. (Clemson is the home team)
Saturday in Columbia, 2 p.m.
Sunday in Clemson, 2 p.m. (streaming on ESPN3.com)

The Gamecocks are still ranked #2 by Collegiate Baseball and #3 by Baseball America.

Opening Weekend for Gamecock Baseball


Disclaimer: I was only able to attend Friday’s game, so this post isn’t nearly as in-depth as it should be.  I hope to resume live Tweeting the games during the series this weekend.  You can follow along at @ThoughtfulCock.

Finally.  Baseball season is here!  Not being a basketball fan, the time between the BCS title game and first pitch seems to drag on forever. After what seemed like an eternity, opening day arrived, and I, in all of my season ticket holder glory, headed out to Carolina Stadium to celebrate the reigning national champions.

The view from my seats. It was a gorgeous day for Carolina Baseball.

Friday’s game was a little rough in patches – a few miscues on some seemingly routine  plays had some of the fans around me a bit worried.  The inability to get too much going offensively had me a little worried (clearly unnecessarily.  See also: Sunday’s 13-1 drubbing of VMI).  Michael Roth pitched six strong innings, allowing one run, but striking out six.  Over the course of the weekend, the Gamecocks’ pitching staff combined for 36 strikeouts, 4 walks, and a 1.33 ERA.  I’ll take that as the start to a season any day.  Carolina’s bats were pretty quiet for the first two games (except for Evan Marzilli, who hit .500 over the course of the weekend), but then exploded in the final game of the series.

I think that Gamecock Nation can take it as a good sign that the baseball team was able to win two tight games and then come back and utterly dominate in the third.  There were certainly a lot of questions heading into this season: How will Matt Price do as a starter?  Who will replace Price as a closer?  How will the Gamecocks cope with replacing 3/4 of their infield?  We’ve only played three games so far, but Price struck out 7 and allowed 2 runs over more than 5 innings, Forrest Koumas earned the save in game 1 (including striking out the final batter looking), and the infield, after a few jitters early on Friday seemed to settle down.  Again, I’ll take it as a good sign.

This team is clearly young.  But it also has proven veterans in Roth, Adam Matthews, Christian Walker, Price, and Marzilli.  Will this team make a run for a third CWS Championship?  It’s possible, but way too soon to tell.  The Gamecocks had a very solid opening weekend, but there’s always room for improvement.

After week 1 of the season, South Carolina remains ranked 3rd in the Baseball America poll, behind #1 Florida (2-1) and #2 Stanford (3-0).  The Gamecocks are ranked 2nd behind Florida in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

Upcoming Games:
Friday (2/24) vs. Elon: 3 p.m.
Saturday (2/25) vs. Elon: 1:30 p.m.
Sunday (2/26) vs. Elon: 1:30 p.m.

Sorry I’ve Been Gone…


Apologies for our long hiatus. Allow us to make amends by posting this humorous video of an angry fan during the UGA-USC game. NSFW, but ridiculously funny.

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