#3 Sakerlina (7-0) vs. #15 Clemson Tigers (4-2)
Its time again to find out whether Jack can beat SC. Both teams will get their first real test against talent this weekend in a 3 game set in Riley Park, Cola, and Tiger Field. Several baseball sites and local news writers have released previews. Last year's rivalry was pretty chippy with the batwarming arguments and its obvious these two squads don't like each other much at all. Hopefully Jack has instilled some focus at the plate and told everyone not to sit and look at strike 3 without moving a bat off their shoulders.
It’s a weekend series and a three-game series," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "It probably gives it a little more focus. Everyone can do their thing for this weekend and then get on with our business in both of our conferences, work hard through the rest of the season, put ourselves in good position for the end. It’s a good weekend for us, we’re looking forward to it, we’re excited about it."
Tonight's first pitch is scheduled for 6pm in Charleston pitting Junkballer Michael Roth against Kevin Brady.
Clemson and South Carolina have met 295 times on the diamond, with the Tigers holding a 168-125-2 lead in the series dating to the 1899 season. South Carolina is Clemson's most-played rival in history.The Gamecocks hold a 76-67-2 lead in the series in Columbia. The Tigers hold a 95-42 advantage in the series in games played at Clemson and a 48-25 mark at Tiger Field. South Carolina leads 7-6 in neutral-site contests.
Jack is 33-34 against South Carolina as Clemson's head coach, including 17-13 in games played at Tiger Field, 16-15 in Columbia, and 0-6 in neutral-site contests.
Sunday's game is on ESPN3
SC swept VMI in the first series they played this year. Roth pitched 7 no-hit innings against Elon in the sweep last weekend. SC beat PC 2-1 this week and is riding a 17-game win streak.
Brady and Clemson's starters have been limited in IP so far, with Brady going just 4IP (73 pitches) in last Friday's start against Maine. The Tigers won 2 of 3.
The Gamecocks are hitting just .274 as a team, but Tanner said the stats don't tell the whole story, because his team has produced an inordinate amount of hard outs. Tanner said he and hitting coach Chad Holbrook were cautiously optimistic heading into the season that his team had a chance to be more potent offensively than last year's team, which hit .294, despite its abundance of new faces. South Carolina has started as many as five freshmen at a time, and three of them—catcher Grayson Greiner, shortstop Joey Pankake and outfielder Tanner English—have started all seven games.
The Gamecocks had to replace their entire middle of the diamond, and how the freshmen perform at the critical positions of catcher and shortstop will go a long way toward determining whether or not South Carolina can pull off a three-peat. The early returns have been good, and South Carolina is fielding at a stellar .985 clip. Tanner said the coaches challenged Pankake aggressively in the fall to make sure he'd be able to handle the everyday shortstop role, and after struggling early in the fall, he gradually began to get comfortable.
Christian Walker is hitting a team-high .381 with one homer and eight RBIs. Evan Marzilli has reached base safely in all seven games and is hitting .357 with all three of the team's stolen bases. LB Dantzler leads the team in both home runs (2) and RBIs (9).
Clemson will probably be without starting 3B Richie Shaffer, at least for the Friday game. Jay Baum is predicted to start in his place. Phil Pohl will have to carry the load in the middle and has so far, batting .476. Kieboom has been sluggish at the plate and needs to pick it up this weekend (.238-1-7). 2B Steve Wilkerson was suspended in the first series and went 7/14 against Maine last weekend.
"I look for him to be our guy there right now," Leggett said. "He had a really good game for us on Sunday. He's a great offensive player and an emotional player for us, so we hope he can establish himself there."
I've been pleasantly surprised with the defense of Thomas Brittle out in CF, who seems to be making one really good play per game and isn't hitting too bad either (.333).
Roth and Price set the tone for the SC staff, but the whole group has been pretty good so far, allowing no more than two runs in any of them and posting a 0.86 team ERA. Pitching and defense were their best qualities the last few years and its no different this year. RHP Colby Holmes (2-0, 0.00) gives South Carolina a good No. 3 starter, and they have a stout pen.
Clemson's first two starters have been good so far, but David Haselden should be moved back to long relief duty from what we've seen from his first two Sunday starts. Its a good thing the 3rd game is in Clemson, because we may need the home crowd help. I'm still hoping Pohle gets a shot at the 3rd spot, but they may want to break him in for midweek games, so it could be Scott Firth.
Both teams have solid starting pitching, and we hope Clemson's defense will be solid enough to help them out. We can't afford many mistakes against this quality of an opponent. In the end though, I do not believe our offense will be able to do squat this weekend without Shaffer and I predict we lose 2 of 3.