The SEC Tournament begins Tuesday morning in Hoover, Alabama, kicking off with a South Carolina baseball matchup against Georgia at 10:30 ET, 9:30 CT. Coming into the tournament, the Gamecocks have been through a lengthy slump, despite their above-average 16-13 conference record. Since the sweep of Florida at Founders Park, the team has a 4-11 record in 15 games, including losses to Charlotte, North Florida, and a sweep at the hands of Kentucky.
Injuries have been a factor, specifically on the pitching staff, but the bats are now all pretty much healthy. However, coach Mark Kingston did announce on Monday that second baseman Will McGillis will be out for at least another week.
Despite the return to the field from most of the injured hitters, the bats have remained cold, even from star freshman Ethan Petry. South Carolina hasn’t scored double-digit runs since Game 1 of the Florida series, and has looked, at best, average on defense.
This slump has led to the Gamecocks tumbling down the rankings, and they now enter the tournament unranked, according to the latest D1Baseball poll. However, while recent results cast doubt on the team’s ability to compete in the postseason, they do have a favorable path in Hoover this week.
As mentioned above, the Gamecocks face off against Georgia in the first round of the tournament, a team the Gamecocks swept earlier this year in Athens. Georgia has their own version of Ethan Petry, a star freshman named Charlie Condon. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how those two compete. A win over the Bulldogs, which, again, isn’t a certainty given the recent struggles of the Gamecocks, would set up a matchup against preseason #1 LSU, a team that the Gamecocks split a series with earlier this year, a 1-1 result following a rainout in the third game.
However, a hypothetical round 2 matchup against the Tigers would likely come against ace Paul Skenes. The Gamecocks got after him in his one start against South Carolina this year, but his talent combined with the Gamecocks’ slump is enough to suggest that a hypothetical meeting in Hoover won’t go the same way.
The good news for the Gamecocks is that a win in the first round against Georgia secures their place in the double-elimination portion of the bracket. That would mean a loss to LSU in the second round wouldn’t sink their hopes of taking home the conference title just yet.
A 1-1 start to the tournament would mean the Gamecocks would take on either Arkansas, Texas A&M, or Tennessee in an elimination game, while a win would set up Carolina nicely for a deep run.
Schedule-wise, South Carolina plays the 10:30 a.m. EST game Tuesday, and a win would mean another 10:30 EST against LSU, while a loss would send the Gamecocks home. Any game times after that game would be TBD. All games will be available on the SECNetwork.
Realistically, the Gamecocks have the talent to win a few games in the tournament, but recent results point to a team that’s, to put it mildly, lost. I expect the Gamecocks to win against Georgia, but any wins after that would be a pleasant surprise.