The Daily Gamecock

Florida series an opportunity to gain separation for Gamecocks

On paper, the SEC was supposed to be a top-heavy league. Through the midpoint in conference play, it hasn't quite worked out that way.

Baseball America ranked four SEC teams in its preseason top 25 poll, a relatively low number by the league's standards. All four ranked in the top 11 however, and three, Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, were representatives of the SEC East.

Preseason No. 3 Florida and preseason No. 5 South Carolina trail Kentucky by two games and five teams are separated by three games. While the Gamecocks and Gators have struggled relative to their lofty expectations, the league as a whole is centered around the median.

South Carolina travels to Gainesville this weekend with the opportunity to gain some separation from the .500 mark. 

"You can have years like this when everybody's evenly matched," Holbrook said. "A lot of people think the sky is falling around here and everybody's in it. You get on a hot streak here and we could be at the top." 

"We'll have our work cut out for us with three of the best pitchers in the country, and our guys are pretty good too," South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook said. "It sets up to be a really big series for them and for us."

South Carolina's staff enters the series with an ERA 3.14 while Florida comes in at 3.10. Thursday's opener includes a showdown between two of the conference's premiere power pitchers in Clarke Schmidt and Alex Faedo, who both rank in the top five in the SEC in strikeouts this season.

The Gamecocks have fared better on the road this year than they have at Founders Park. They boast a .750 winning percentage on the road compared to .654 mark at home. 

"I like the way we've played on the road," Holbrook said. "I don't know what it is, maybe our guys relax a little bit on the road and take a deep breath."

First pitch is schedule for 7:30 p.m. Thursday night.