College Baseball doesn't generally attract a lot of attention, but a lot of eyes will be on the Palmetto State this weekend as the premier rivalry in college baseball takes place between Clemson and South Carolina. This rivalry has a lot of history to it with no love lost for the opponent on either side. This will be the first series since 1993 without Coach Leggett in the dugout for the Tigers. Clemson has struggled against the Gamecocks recently before winning the series last year. The hiring of Monte Lee as Jack Leggett's successor adds a new flavor to the rivalry. Coach Lee was an assistant for former South Carolina Head Baseball Coach(now AD) Ray Tanner from 2003-2008 before taking the head coaching job at his alma mater, College of Charleston.
Chad Holbrook is now in his fourth year as head coach of the Gamecocks baseball program after succeeding Ray Tanner for the 2013 season. The Gamecocks struggled last year with a 32-25 record and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. Despite that miss, the Gamecocks feature a very talented team this year with some MLB scouts lauding this team as Chad Holbrook's best at South Carolina
Friday- LHP Charlie Barnes(Sophomore)-Clemson vs. RHP Clarke Schmidt(Sophomore)-USCjr. -- Columbia, SC
Saturday- RHP Braden Webb(Freshman)-USCjr. vs. RHP Clate Schmidt(Senior)-Clemson -- Greenville, SC
Sunday- RHP Taylor Widener(Junior)-USCjr. vs. TBA-Clemson -- Clemson, SC
After losing the season opener against Maine 4-3, Monte Lee and co. have gone on to win six straight games against Maine, JMU, and Wofford by scoring at least seven runs in each games and limiting the opposition to a total of 10 runs over the six game winning streak. The offensive attack has been led by stud freshman Seth Beer who has two home runs along with nine RBI's as well as leadoff man Chase Pinder who has three home runs to go with ten RBI's. Chris Okey and Reed Rohlman have also been key contributors on offense. Okey has two home runs and eleven RBI's to date while Rohlman has nine RBI's so far.
The pitching staff was expected to be a weakness for the Tigers to start the season but Charlie Barnes and Clate Schmidt have so far shown to be a strong Friday and Saturday duo for the Tigers while the bullpen has been a key strength so far for the Tigers led by redshirt freshman Alex Eubanks who has allowed just four hits, one run and one walk while throwing twelve strikeouts in 9.1 innings pitched for the TIgers in relief. Freshman LHP Jake Higginbotham, who was the Sunday starter the first two games of the season has shown some growing pains so far this season but is still expected to be a major contributor for the Tigers this season.
Coach Lee knows how important it is to win the series against the Gamecocks so the starter for the Sunday game in Clemson is still up in the air depending on who they have available and who they feel most comfortable with. This is a major step up in competition for the Tigers compared to the competition they faced so far this year so we'll see how Coach Lee's first Tigers squad reacts to the biggest rivalry of the season.