Still haven’t gotten enough of your 30-0 trouncing in Columbia three months ago? Well behold, and feast your eyes, because the greatest show on dirt returns to college baseball this weekend, as the the Tigers (8-0) and Gamecocks (7-1) square off for the annual Palmetto Rivalry Series.
This weekend looks poised to be a slugfest between the two programs, as each school comes in hot off sizzling openings to the year offensively. Clemson’s offense is undoubtedly one of the hottest in the country, scoring 90 runs through its first eight games, good for 12th in the country and 5th in the ACC (it’s a high-scoring conference this year— no I’m not talking about basketball). Although not as high-scoring, the Gamecocks have still been efficient pushing runs across the plate, scoring 65 runs through eight games, good for a tie at 51st in the country.
The Tigers have an extremely versatile offensive attack, with all five of their top hitters swinging the bat above .350, and three hitters already in double-digits in the hit column. Sophomore Cooper Ingle is lighting it up at the plate, hitting .469 with 15 hits, 12 RBIs, and 13 runs scored. Sophomore first basemen Caden Grice is also continuing to build on an impressive start to his Clemson career, hitting .367 with 11 hits, 3 home runs, 11 RBIs, and 12 runs scored. Throw in mega power from Max Wagner (2 homers, 9 RBIs), Bryar Hawkins (3 homers, 15 RBIs), and transfer Benjamin Blackwell (1 homer, 8 RBIs), and this is a loaded Clemson offense, not to mention catcher/designated hitter Jonathan French, who did this to a baseball on Tuesday night:
Oh, and did I mention Dylan Brewer as well?
These guys can hit. Offense is one of the things Clemson has lacked since the days of Seth Beer and Chris Williams, but it appears this team has figured out Monte Lee’s offensive approach. I know the Tigers haven’t faced a superb pitching rotation yet, but after watching this team the past few years struggle to get to five or six runs a game, I can tell you this offense is different.
Pitching will also tip in Clemson’s favor, as the Tiger pitchers have been dominant so far this year, only allowing 21 runs through the first eight games. This may be the biggest advantage this weekend, as the Gamecocks enter extremely shorthanded in their pitching rotation. Expect the bullpen to appear early in each game for South Carolina.
The Tigers own the overall series record 182-143-2, and have dominated historically at home (101-46). Clemson’s won five of the last seven series’ and have the most recent victory in the series. This rivalry has been extremely close traditionally; neither team has swept a series or won more than two games in a row since the Gamecocks did it in 2014, and in neutral site games, the two sides are tied 12-12 overall.
This weekend should be a launching point for both sides as the two rivals take aim at returning to Omaha for the first time since 2010 and 2012 respectively (Can you believe its been a decade without either team in Omaha?). Here’s how the series will look:
Game 1: Friday, 7 p.m., Founders Park (Columbia, S.C.), SEC Network+
Projected Starters: RHP Mack Anglin (Clemson) vs. RHP Will Sanders (UofSC)
Game 2: Saturday, 4 p.m., Segra Park (Columbia, S.C.), ACC Network Extra
Projected Starters: TBD (UofSC) vs. RHP Nick Hoffman (Clemson)
Game 3: Sunday, 3 p.m., Doug Kingsmore Stadium (Clemson, S.C.), ACC Network
Projected Starters: TBD (UofSC) vs. RHP Nick Clayton (Clemson)