I keep thinking I should be sad. Or maybe disappointed. Or possibly heartbroken. But I’m really none of those things. Of course I didn’t like to see the Gamecocks lose in the CWS finals. I didn’t like it in 2002 either. But just like in 2002, I am so proud of this team for making it so far. In 2002, we lost to a Texas team who was way out of our league. Last night, we lost to an Arizona team that had an unbelievable post-season run. A team who outplayed on us every level. And a team who most certainly deserved to win the National Championship. So Congratulations to the Arizona Wildcats on winning the 2012 CWS National Championship.
Last year, I had the pleasure to put down in words how wonderful life is with the Gamecocks in the world (apologies to Elton John). This year, despite a loss, I can say with certainty that I am so proud of the Gamecocks. This team was not supposed to any of the things they accomplished this year. Remember that 1-5 start in SEC play, including being swept at Kentucky? Showing a resilience that few thought they possessed, this team bounced back by taking 2 of 3 from Vanderbilt and Tennessee, then sweeping Mississippi State, Auburn, and Alabama. This team went from dead last in the SEC to playing in the CWS finals. In spite of the adversity, the Gamecocks kept a 22 post season game win streak going strong until a fateful June meeting with Arkansas. Even after that, South Carolina showed supreme resilience, winning 3 games in 33 hours to earn a hot date with Arizona in the finals.
And then it all came crashing down. Arizona, supremely well-rested and riding the arms of their starting pitchers, an utterly outstanding defense, and an offense that just kept producing, outplayed the Gamecocks on every level. It looked like the Gamecocks might have a shot at redemption on Monday night behind Michael Roth, who started his 8th career game at the CWS, setting a record. Roth kept the ‘Cocks in it, but once again the offense came up short, managing only 1 run on 3 hits. Those kind of offensive numbers won’t win championships. But that’s ok. We all knew it had to end sometime.
Although, I’m not positive that is has ended. As Roth, Christian Walker, Adam Matthews, Matt Price, and Evan Marzilli prepare to head off to their respective big league careers, they will surely take a moment to pass on the wisdom, dugout antics, and championship attitude to those rising up to take their places. As surely as Jordan Montgomery looked like Roth, Jr. on the mound against Arkansas, Tanner English, Joey Pankake, and Grayson Greiner will step up into that same sort of leadership role to carry on the tradition of determination, grit, and winning anyway that those of us in Columbia have come to expect. Yes, as our veteran players transition to the next phases of their respective careers, they will be passing the torch to the ones left behind.
The past three years have been something special. It’s been silly, fun, heart stopping, tear filled (in a good way), and exciting. So thank you to all of the young men who have made up the Gamecocks’ roster for the past three years. To all of you who played your hearts out to do something unprecedented in Carolina sports. To the heroes whose names will live on in South Carolina baseball lore – Whit Merrifield, Jackie Bradley Jr., Scott Wingo, Christian Walker, Michael Roth, Matt Price – and to those whose quiet contributions changed the course of games – Bayler Teal, Charlie Peters, Brady Thomas, Robert Beary, Evan Marzilli, Adam Matthews, Tyler Webb, John Taylor – we thank you. From the very bottom of our hearts, we thank you. Forever to Thee, indeed.
I would strongly suggest you check out this article by Garnet Report as well. A wonderful tribute to the Gamecocks.
In case you missed the memo….Arizona is the real deal. They have one of the best offenses in the country, with 8 players boasting a batting average of over .300, to make for a team average of .331. As a team, they have 23 home runs and have drawn 232 walks. They also have a .969 fielding percentage. Their team ERA is 3.74, a stat that has been inflated due to a not so awesome bullpen. Their starter for tonight’s game, Kurt Heyer, has a 13-2 record and a 2.24 ERA. He’s thrown 153 innings this year, walked 28, and struck out 113. Last night’s starter, Konner Wade, has pitched two complete games in this year’s CWS, has an 11-3 record (prior to last night’s game), 105 Ks and 37 walks. He’s thrown 136.1 innings this season.
Everything in that paragraph points to why the Gamecocks didn’t win last night. Against a team like Arizona, the ‘Cocks need to be flawless, essentially playing the single best series of the entire season. They didn’t have it yesterday. A throwing error from Grayson Greiner (which, btw, does not mean that Coach Tanner should immediately pull him from the game in favor of Dante Rosenberg), a base running blunder by Adam Matthews (whose decision would have paid off if Arizona’s defense wasn’t so good), an error by Joey Pankake (which seemed to me to be more of a bad hop that he couldn’t handle), and a shaky pitching performance from Forrest Koumas (who hadn’t thrown in a month), set the tone for the night. Altogether, these miscues aren’t necessarily cause for alarm. The problem stems from the fact that our offense can’t seem to string hits together to atone for those mistakes.
There were a few high points – Koumas struck out the side in the 2nd, Evan Beal pitched 5 solid innings of relief, and Nolan Belcher (who, in my opinion, is extremely under-used) got out of huge jam in the 8th by quickly retiring the two batters he faced. Greiner had a nice double in the 6th, and ultimately went on to score on a single from Marzilli. But everything else? Mediocre at best.
Not that Arizona is invincible. If the Gamecocks can be patient, work the count, and run up the pitch count, the Wildcats will be forced to go to their bullpen, which hasn’t exactly been rock steady this season. Michael Roth will start for the Gamecocks tonight. If he can get a little run support, and some perfectly executed defense, the Gamecocks will be in a position to win this one. But there is no room for error. At all. As the Wildcats showed last night.
- Fun things to do while your team is losing? Play the Mike Patrick drinking game. Make up your own rules, but some of my favorites are repeated stories like what LB stands for, that Pankake went to IHOP on National Pancake Day, or that Tanner English has excellent speed on the base paths.
- There’s a Fear the Fish song. Check it out here:
- And just to get you pumped up…
Tonight’s game is on ESPN and ESPN3.com at 8 p.m. The Gamecocks will be the home team.
The Gamecocks managed to do the unthinkable, and won three games in 33 hours. First they beat Kent State, then shut out Arkansas. The next night, they went on to play an Arkansas team who wouldn’t go down without a fight.
The Hogs jumped out to an early lead, and for awhile it looked like they were set for a match with Arizona in the final. The Gamecocks finally broke through in the 5th inning on an RBI single from Joey Pankake. Marzilli then walked to load the bases. The Gamecocks tied the game at 2 after Walker walked with the bases loaded. That ended the night for Arkansas starter DJ Baxendale, who threw an outstanding game for the Hogs. Carolina pulled ahead for good in the 7th, as Arkansas once again walked in a run.
This game really could have gone either way. There were more than a few bad calls (for both teams), a tiny strike zone that seemed to change with each pitch, and two teams who desperately wanted to stay in Omaha. Arkansas played an amazing game. The Gamecocks just happened to get lucky enough to win. And so Arkansas heads home and South Carolina is, for the third consecutive year, playing in the CWS final series. This time their opponent is Arizona, a team who has been cruising through the post-season.
Arizona boasts one of the best offenses in the country. South Carolina’s pitching staff is going to need to be flawless to keep the Wildcats’ bats at bay. And the Gamecocks are going to need to find a spark to ignite their own offense if they want to have a chance at repeating again.
It looks like Forrest Koumas will get the start for the Gamecocks tonight. Koumas hasn’t pitched much this year – he battled an elbow injury in the latter part of the season, though he did pitch in the SEC tournament. Koumas has been pretty steady for the Gameocks, and he certainly knows how to pitch in the CWS. Koumas will go up against Konner Wade, who last pitched Sunday against UCLA, when he threw a 5-hit shutout. Between Arizona’s stellar hitting and Wade’s pitching, the Gamecocks may be facing an uphill battle. That, however, hasn’t stopped Carolina yet.
Karma finally caught up with Florida State on Thursday night, as they fell to Arizona 10-3, in a fashion similar to the way FSU had been dismantling opponents all through the post-season. By the 5th inning, I think I can safely say that everyone in Columbia and Fayetteville were ready for the umps to implement a mercy rule, but alas, all post-season games must go at least 9 innings. Finally, around 8:30 EDT, the game ended. Arizona advances to the final series with the distinct advantage of extra rest, and FSU heads back to Tallahassee.
While Arizona was preparing their assault on FSU, the Gamecocks were playing for their lives against Kent State. After being rained out on Wednesday night, the NCAA and ESPN, in their infinite wisdom, decided that rather than use the built in off-day to be used in case of bad weather, the elimination game would be played at noon EDT, and the winner would have to play again that night. Way to make that one fair guys. Really. South Carolina is the 2 time defending national champions…shouldn’t we have some pull here? It ended up not making a difference, at least not on Thursday, but it may down the road.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified going into the Kent State game. The Golden Flashes had momentum, determination, and a desire to prove themselves. Hmmm…sounds a bit like the 2010 Gamecocks. Plus Kent State had been relatively solid throughout the tournament, making a few mistakes here and there, but in general looking like they deserved to be in Omaha. Especially after defeating Florida on Monday. So you can see why I was worried. I shouldn’t have been. With Michael Roth on the hill, throwing better than I’ve ever seen him throw, this one was well within the Gamecocks’ grasp. The star of this game was undoubtedly Roth, but let’s give credit to the bottom half of the lineup for 4 hits in the 2nd to score the Gamecocks’ first 2 runs, and to LB Dantzler who launched one over the right field bullpen to put the Gamecocks up 4-1 for good. I’m a bit sad to see Kent State go – they were really fun to watch, and they seem like a classy bunch of guys. Their coach certainly only had good things to say after the game, calling Roth “biggest superstar our game has. “He throws 85 mph. He just knows how to pitch. He does everything the right way. Great student. I’ve got a ton of respect for him.” Thanks for the kind words Coach. I’m sure we’ll see your team back in Omaha soon.
Roth had a game that will live on in the history books. He now officially owns the record for most innings pitched in the CWS with 53.2. He has never allowed more than 3 earned runs in a CWS start. On Thursday, he threw a complete game 2-hitter, and retired the last 22 batters he faced. Over the course of 9 innings, he threw 106 pitches, 70 of which were strikes. He didn’t walk a batter, and only had one 3-ball count, while striking out 8. This was, hands-down, Michael Roth’s best performance as a pitcher. And probably the one that will earn him a statue in front of Carolina Stadium. But the best part about Roth’s stellar performance? By throwing a complete game, it meant that the entire pitching staff (with the exception of Monday’s starter Colby Holmes) were rested and fresh to go against Arkansas that night if needed.
If I was nervous about playing Kent State, it was nothing compared to how twitchy I was while waiting for the Carolina / Arkansas game to start. Ray Tanner decided to start freshman Jordan Montgomery, who’d had a pretty solid year, but hadn’t pitched in about a month. As usual, Tanner’s decision paid off, and Monty threw 8 shutout innings. He walked one (and hit a batter), struck out 5, and threw 89 pitches, 56 of which were strikes. Monty came out in the 9th in favor of Matt Price, who did his usual thing and earned his 13th save. While watching Monty, did anyone else have flashbacks of Roth’s complete game against Clemson in Omaha in 2010? Because I sure did.
That’s not to say that Monty could have done it by himself. He was able to pitch with a 2 run lead, thanks to back-to-back doubles from Erik Payne & Grayson Greiner, and a base hit from Chase Vergason. After that, Arkansas starter Randall Fant was chased from the game, and the bullpen shut down the Gamecocks. But it didn’t matter. Thanks to some outstanding defense, especially from Joey Pankake and Christian Walker, the Gamecocks were equally able to shut down the Hogs. Carolina ultimately won the game, 2-0, setting up a rematch for Friday night at 9 p.m. EDT.
If you were watching Thursday’s games, you were watching history being made. Let’s just hope that that the Gamecocks can keep that spark going through tonight’s contest. The winner has a hot date with Arizona in the CWS final series which starts on Sunday. Colby Holmes will start the game for South Carolina, and DJ Baxendale will go for Arkanasas. The game will be on ESPN and ESPN3.com. Don’t be surprised if this game is as intense as yesterday’s – neither of these teams wants to leave quite yet.
Around 8 p.m. EST yesterday, a deflated and stunned Coach O’Sullivan and his Florida Gators looked on in disbelief as the Kent State’s right fielder, TJ Sutton, squeezed a fly ball to give the Golden Flashes a 5-4 victory. Raise your hand if you had Florida as the first team in bracket two to be knocked out. Anyone? Me neither. Totally didn’t see that one coming, but well done Kent State.
Not that is was an easy or a pretty victory. Kent State made more mistakes than they should have been able to get away with, but the Gators just couldn’t capitalize on anything. In the 9th, it looked like Florida might pull off a come back victory – the bases were loaded with one out. But, on a 3-2 count Casey Turgeon couldn’t check his swing (I fully agree with the umpires here, but I know a lot of people disagree. Bottom line? Turgeon brought his bat over half the plate and didn’t pull back in time), and struck out. Bases were still loaded for Justin Shafer, who promptly flied out to right field, cementing Florida’s loss. Would the outcome have been different if Florida starter Hudson Randall hadn’t left the game after the first due to dehydration? Maybe. But the Gators also made 2 errors, and just didn’t look like their heads were in the game, so maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. Kent State, on its first ever trip to Omaha, defeated the #1 National Seed, and has a hot date with the 2 time defending national champions on Wednesday night.
Speaking of the 2 time defending national champions (I told you saying that would never get old), the Gamecocks couldn’t quite muster the offense to defeat Arkansas. The Hogs outstanding pitching held the Gamecocks in check. If just one of their outs had made it around a fielder, this game likely would have had a different outcome. But that’s baseball. If you want to win, you need to take the advice of former Major Leaguer Willie Keeler, and “hit it where they ain’t.”
Of course, you also need great pitching, which Arkansas had throughout the game. South Carolina didn’t have it until Tyler Webb took the hill in the 4th. Colby Holmes started the game for the ‘Cocks, but didn’t have his usual sharpness, and ultimately gave up 2 runs, which was all Arkansas needed. The Hogs are set to enjoy a couple of days off, while the Gamecocks will meet Kent State on Wednesday evening. Arkansas will play the winner of that game on Thursday night.
A couple of notes:
- Don’t discount the Golden Flashes. Wednesday’s game is not going to be an easy one to win. If you doubt that, I suggest you give Kevin O’Sullivan and company a call. Or call the Oregon baseball team. They’ll tell you exactly how tough a team Kent State is.
- Don’t be surprised if Michael Roth starts the game on Wednesday. Yes, it’ll be on 3 days rest, but really? How do you say no to your veteran ace in an elimination game? Webb probably won’t be available from the ‘pen, but everyone else should be ready to go. The Gamecocks have only used Roth, Holmes, Webb, and Price so far, so they’re in good shape.
- Despite the loss, the Gamecocks hold the NCAA record for consecutive post-season wins at 22, and the CWS consecutive win record at 12. As the Grateful Dead once said, “What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been.” Time for the Gamecocks to keep on Truckin’.
- Apparently some “fans” were giving the baseball team all kinds of grief on Twitter for losing last night. Not cool. As awesome as this win streak has been, everyone knew that the Gamecocks would have to lose sometime. These guys have never done anything but give their all to this game, this fan base, and this University. I guarantee they are more frustrated than the douchecanoes who called them out. But whereas said douchecanoes will only be able to scream and rail via Twitter (seriously?) and in their living rooms, the Carolina baseball team will be regrouping, supporting each other, and preparing both mentally and physically to take on Kent State. The baseball team may lose from time to time, but they’ve accomplished things that no one else has done and have set records that will stand for a long time. In other words, “U Can’t Touch This.”
In bracket one, UCLA and FSU meet tonight at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN and ESPN3.com. The winner will play Arizona on Thursday at 5 p.m. In bracket two, South Carolina and Kent State play Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN3.com. The winner will play Arkansas on Thursday at 9 p.m.
Well. I’m officially out of the business of making predictions, as I have really been falling flat this year. It’s been three great days of baseball, and I’m pretty sure today’s games will be equally awesome. Today’s games are at 5 and 9 p.m. EST on ESPN2 or ESPN3.com.
We’re going to recap this out-of-order, because this is a Gamecocks’ blog, so we should start with them.
Day Two, Bracket Two:
Let’s be honest. This bracket is the reason you’re reading this. It’s the one that features 3 SEC teams and the 2 time defending National Champion Gamecocks (saying that will never get old). We’ll get to the Gamecocks shortly, so just bear with me…
In the first game, Kent State, the only non-SEC team in this bracket, got a crash course in SEC baseball. They were held to 4 hits and 1 run by Arkansas’ formidable pitching roster. Arkansas, on the other hand, had a 3-0 lead going into the 6th inning. By the time the 9th rolled around, the Hogs were on top 8-1. And that’s how it ended. Kent State now has to play Florida in an elimination game. This could get ugly.
Now onto what was probably the most highly anticipated CWS game ever: South Carolina at Florida. The Gamecocks and the Gators are old frenemies. They played each other 3 times in the regular season, with Florida winning twice. Then in the SEC tournament, the Gators won again. The Gamecocks put a quick stop to that bit of Florida domination with a 7-3 win on Saturday night. Michael Roth, as we’ve all come to expect, had a pretty stellar outing, going 6 1/3 and allowing 3 runs on 7 hits. Tyler Webb came in and worked his magic to get 2 quick outs to end the 7th, and then it was Matt Price time. Price pitched the last two innings, allowing 2 hits and striking out 3, on his way to earning his 12th save this season, and setting the SEC record for career saves at 42.
But let’s be honest. Price wouldn’t even have been in the game if it hadn’t been for some stellar defense and timely hitting from the Gamecocks. Florida scored 2 runs in the 3rd, to give themselves the early lead. The Gators’ pitcher, Brian Johnson, was dealing, and for awhile it looked like the ‘Cocks might be headed for a date with Kent State. And then the 5th inning happened. The Gamecocks exploded for 5 runs to take the lead for good. Evan Marzilli led off the inning with a double, which Christian Walker followed with a single. Adam Matthews walked to load the bases. Erik Payne came up and smacked a triple to right center field to give the Gamecocks a 3-2 edge. LB Dantzler then launched a double to center field, scoring Payne. Dantzler was bunted to 3rd by Tanner English, and then scored on a single from Chase Vergason. 5-2 Gamecocks headed to the bottom of the 5th. Florida scored in the bottom of the inning, but that was it. Thanks to a bit of Florida self-destruction, the Gamecocks tacked on a pair in the 9th after a couple wild pitches and errant throws. Gamecocks take game 1 from the top-seeded Gators, 7-3.
Now onto the defense. While Florida was imploding, South Carolina was diving all over the field. Literally. It started with Michael Roth diving off the mound to catch a pop-up bunt. Then Chase Vergason got in on the action, flinging himself sideways to keep a ball from leaving the infield, and still making the play at 2nd base. Then Dante Rosenberg got in on the action, falling face first to the side of home plate to cut off a wild throw. And then there was Evan Marzilli, who leaped halfway across the outfield to complete an outstanding catch to start the 8th inning. The catch was good enough for the number 6 spot on Sports Center, and spawned all kinds of witticisms like the one that captions this picture:
In case you had something better to do than watch Gamecock baseball, you can watch the catch here:
Once again, the Gamecocks showed that they know how to play in Omaha. The win over Florida upped South Carolina’s post-season win streak to 22, and 12 consecutive CWS wins. What an amazing run.
Florida will face Kent State in an elimination game today at 5 p.m. South Carolina and Arkansas will meet at 9 p.m. Both games will be on ESPN2 or ESPN3.com The loser of the South Carolina/Arkansas game will play the winner of Florida/Kent State on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN3.com.
Bracket One games after the jump….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- At home vs. Florida, Thursday 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.