To say this is a big weekend in the state of South Carolina is an understatement. Along with the SC Democratic Primary being the focus of the political world, the #6 Florida State Seminoles heading to Littlejohn Colesium for some Saturday afternoon basketball, and Clemson softball hosting UVA, it’s also College Baseball’s Best Rivalry: Clemson vs South Carolina. After winning four series in a row against the Gamecocks, Clemson fell last season to South Carolina, losing Game one in a 5-4 heartbreaker in Doug Kingsmore, drubbing the Gamecocks 11-5 at Flour Field, and then stumbling in Columbia, losing the rubber match 14-3, giving Monte Lee his first series loss in the rivalry.
But let’s take a gander at this year’s South Carolina squad. The Gamecocks come in at 6-2, with their only two losses coming in a series loss to Northwestern. Now, I mean no disrespect to Northwestern University and all the fine journalists Medill has produced, but if before last weekend you told me Northwestern doesn’t field a baseball team, I’d probably have believed you. And it appears for good reason: per Wikipedia, the Wildcats have made one (1) NCAA baseball tournament, and that was back in 1957. Northwestern has two conference championships, one in 1943 and one in 1957. This year’s Cats are 3-3 after losing their opening series to Omaha. But you really didn’t come here to read about Northwestern baseball.
The pitching matchups have the Tigers going with Sam Weatherly on Friday, Davis Sharpe on Saturday, and Spencer Strider on Sunday. Something to watch on Sunday if the game is close is to see if Strider is still kept on a short leash and Mat Campbell comes in fairly early. I can’t imagine Monte’s ready to let him pitch too deep in a game yet, but if he gets out there Sunday and is just straight dealing, it might be hard to pull him. As far as the Gamecock pitchers go, Friday we’ll see RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP Saturday Thomas Farr, and RHP Brannon Jordan on Sunday.
Mlodzinski is a redshirt sophomore who has a 1-0 record a 0.64 ERA on the year. Last week he tossed 7 innings against Northwestern, leaving with a 1-1 game before the bullpen gave up a four run tenth inning, leading to a 5-2 loss. Redshirt sophomore Farr comes in with a 1-0 record and a 3.86 ERA. Mark Kingston appears to be switching up his rotation because this will be Farr’s first weekend appearance of the year. His other appearance came in a midweek 14-3 thumping of Presbyterian College where he went 4.2 innings before being pulled after surrendering two runs in the fifth. Jordan is a Junior who comes in with 1-0 record and a 1.60 ERA. He went six innings and gave up two runs on two hits to Northwestern, before the Gamecocks eventually fell in extras again to the Wildcats. Offensively, first baseman Wes Clark is swinging a big bat, leading the team in homers with four and RBIs with fourteen.
Clemson’s weekend pitching has been pretty elite so far, but South Carolina’s hasn’t been to shabby either. While I’d give the nod to Clemson in pitching, I’ll say the Gamecock’s bats have been a bit more lively so far. While the Clemson pitching can certainly contain the Gamecocks, to win this series Clemson will probably need just a bit more spark on offense. Eleven hits against ETSU was promising, but only bringing in three runs on that is unacceptable. From looking at South Carolina’s series against Northwestern, if Clemson’s pitching can keep the Gamecocks in check long enough, Clemson may have it’s chance to break through once the Gamecocks turn it over to the bullpen.
Friday night’s game begins at 7 at South Carolina’s Founders Park. It can be live streamed on SEC Network + via the ESPN app. Saturday and Sunday’s games will also be on the ESPN app with an ACC Network Extra broadcast. Saturday’s game is the first time the Tigers and Gamecocks have played a “neutral” game in Columbia as they square off at Segra Park, the home of the Columbia Fireflies. Despite the Bull Street neighborhood stadium being almost walk able from the University of South Carolina’s campus, Clemson has been designated Saturday’s “home” team. Despite the location, I’d imagine with the ticket distribution and Clemson’s large Columbia fan and alumni base, the in stadium atmosphere should feel pretty neutral and similar to how it was in Greenville. Saturday’s first pitch will be at 3:00 and Sunday’s finale at Doug Kingsmore Stadium will get going at 2:00.