Baseball set to play College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina
Two days after losing its first series of the season, No. 2 South Carolina will return home to the friendly confines of Carolina Stadium to open up a six-game home stand.
The Gamecocks get a brief break in SEC play, as they host College of Charleston Tuesday and Coastal Carolina Wednesday.
South Carolina (19-3, 3-3 SEC) lost back-to-back games for the first time this season against No. 19 Kentucky, giving up its No. 1 ranking in the process, according to Baseball America’s most recent poll.
An 8-3 victory on Sunday salvaged the series for South Carolina, which lost 13-5 on Friday after the Wildcats tagged Jordan Montgomery for seven runs over just two innings. Kentucky ranks first in the nation in runs, scoring 194 so far this season.
“Six players over .300 and five over .333,” coach Chad Holbrook said of Kentucky’s lineup. “Obviously they lead the SEC in hitting.”
Like a gasp for air, the Gamecocks will take a break from top offensive competition when they face College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina, who are 154th and 185th in the nation in batting average, respectively.
College of Charleston (16-7) will visit Columbia in the team’s final game before its dives into conference play.
The Gamecocks will see the Cougars’ Tyler Thornton on Tuesday, who is winless after three starts so far this season. Thornton owns a 4.71 ERA on the year, but is coming off an impressive no-decision where he totaled three innings, while surrendering no runs and no hits.
For Tuesday night’s tilt, South Carolina will send freshman Taylor Widener to the mound, who won his only start of the season against Furman on March 11. Widener has yet to give up an earned run over 10 innings pitched this season, and is holding opponents to a .167 batting average.
South Carolina will turn around and welcome Coastal Carolina the next day, (10-13, 2-4 Big South) losers of five out of its last seven outings.
The Chanticleers have played just three games away from home this season, with their trip to Columbia being the fourth. Coastal Carolina is 1-2 in such games, dropping two of three to High Point University.
Holding a team ERA of 1.87 through their first 22 games has been nothing short of exceptional for the Gamecocks. Three of their last six opponents are ranked nationally in the top-23 in terms of team batting average. Through March 23, Kentucky is ranked No. 9 with .315, Ole Miss ranks No. 17 with .309 and Clemson ranks 47th with .293.
South Carolina sits just below Ole Miss with a .304 collective batting average, good enough for 23rd in the nation.
The two-games-to-one setback against Kentucky over the weekend was the Gamecocks’ first loss of the season when allowing five runs or less in a game.
And when South Carolina takes on its two non-conference opponents this week, Holbrook said he will continue to experiment with the lead-off position, apparently favoring Marcus Mooney, who has garnered 15 starts at that spot.
“I might mess around and put Elliott Caldwell up there from time to time, it depends how we’re playing, it depends how things are going,” Holbrook said. “I could put Connor [Bright] up there too because he’s swinging the bat so well … To take a quote from coach Tanner, the lead-off guy only leads off once a game.”