It's no secret the South Carolina baseball team has struggled to stay healthy this season, as six pitchers are out with injuries.
The Gamecocks haven't been at full strength in the starting rotation all season, as redshirt junior Julian Bosnic and junior James Hicks have dealt with long-term injuries.
In their absence, sophomore right-hander Will Sanders has continued to give the team an opportunity to win with each start he's made. In seven starts, Sanders has pitched to a 3.30 ERA while striking out 47 batters.
For a time, not having Bosnic and Hicks made it difficult to fill those other voids, but South Carolina has received tremendous help from two newcomers on the mound.
After getting off to a rocky start as a reliever, junior right-hander Noah Hall has progressed well as the team's Friday night starter.
Since allowing seven runs against Texas on March 12, Hall's ERA has gone from 9.42 to 6.27. In his most recent outing, he pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Missouri Tigers on April 1.
"I'm right on the edge of being really good," Hall said. "I'm getting more confident every week, putting in the work every week."
Freshman left-hander Matthew Becker has quickly become a permanent fixture in the rotation. In four starts, Becker's pitched to a 4.15 ERA while striking out 39 batters and giving up four home runs.
Becker's numbers have cooled off lately, which is understandable after giving up three combined runs against No. 7 Texas and No. 1 Tennessee. His pitch placement has been inconsistent in his last two outings, causing him to walk 11 batters.
"It's a good sign when you cannot have your best stuff or your best command and still will your way through it," head coach Mark Kingston said about Becker.
Unable to find a consistent fourth starter, South Carolina has been forced to start six different pitchers in midweek games this season.
“We had guys that are trying to find themselves pitching on Tuesday and we have guys pitching on the weekend that kind of know who they are and how to get the job done,” Kingston said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
On the other hand, the team's bullpen has been a completely different story.
The bullpen, comprised mainly of newcomers and freshman, has a 8.93 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Relievers are striking out 8.86 batters per nine innings but allowing 13.9 hits/walks per game.
Relievers combined to give up 13 runs on 16 hits in 7.3 innings of work last weekend against Missouri as the Gamecocks dropped the final two games of the series.
"We have to have the right process to get us where we're trying to go," Kingston said. "So yeah, we've got young guys doing things and maybe we're asking them to do too much but it's just the situation we're in. So they'll grow from it. They'll get better from it."
However, redshirt freshman right-hander Cade Austin has improved drastically, becoming a go-to reliever on any given day. Since giving up six runs on opening day, Austin has allowed four runs and struck out 24 batters in 24.2 innings.
Kingston said Austin's been "very consistent" as of late in relief.
"Cade, again, did exactly what he's been doing: pounding the strike zone, mixing his pitches and letting his defense work," Kingston said.
Despite struggling at times, freshman right-hander Aidan Hunter has been one of the better relievers for the Gamecocks. With a 4.50 ERA in 26 innings, Hunter has minimized his walks, only allowing four, while striking out 17 batters.
Looking ahead, it won't get any easier for this pitching staff as No. 14 Georgia is coming into town this weekend.
"You have to look at big picture and small picture. As much as we say it all the time, it's true. We've got to focus on process over outcome right now," Kingston said. "The outcome at some point will be what we want. But until we get to that point, we have to focus on doing the right things on a daily basis."