South Carolina Baseball: Gamecocks squeak by in mid-week ahead of SEC opening series

South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston and his team narrowly avoided a loss to Georgia State in the mid-week. Now they have to travel to SEC foe Ole Miss.

South Carolina baseball first baseman Gavin Casas
South Carolina baseball first baseman Gavin Casas / Cyndi Chambers / USA TODAY NETWORK

South Carolina baseball has won 6 games in a row since losing 2 to the rival Clemson Tigers, and they were voted anywhere from 12th to 21st in the national rankings at the beginning of this week. However, they've been a little up and down in those wins while playing against lesser competition.

The trend continued on Tuesday when the Gamecocks knocked off the Georgia State Panthers in a 4-3 contest in which GSU had the tying run in scoring position in the 8th inning.

Carolina managed just 4 runs despite having 11 base runners reach by hit, walk, HBP, or error. Their struggles with runners on base returned as USC went just 3-16 with ducks on the pond. Much of the issue came about because South Carolina struck out 13 times, including 7 in the final three innings against Georgia State's bullpen.

Eddie Copper was solid as the starter, and a bullpen effort from Matthew Becker, Roman Kimball, Chris Veach, and Garrett Gainey yielded just 1 allowed run over the final 4 1/3 innings (the only run coming against Kimball after Veach allowed an inherited runner to score).

With SEC play beginning Friday against Ole Miss, South Carolina baseball cannot afford to play like that this weekend on the road at Swayze Field. Ole Miss isn't nearly as good as they were a few years ago when they won the national championship, but the Rebels have won 7 games in a row, including taking the series against a pretty good Iowa Hawkeyes squad.

The offense in Oxford has been pretty good lately. Six Rebel starters have at least 3 home runs (compared to just two for South Carolina), and the team is averaging just under 10 runs per game in their last 12 times out on the diamond. Mike Bianco's 2-3-4 hitters in the lineup (Andrew Fischer, Ross Jackson, and Ethan Lege) have been exceptional, combining to hit 15 home runs, score 60 runs, and drive in 62 runs while holding a BB/K ratio of 48/32.

The Ole Miss rotation has seen some changes already this season. Gunnar Dennis has been locked into the Friday slot, and Sunday arm Grayson Saunier has been the best starter. However, Saturday starter Riley Maddox was bumped from the rotation in favor of Liam Doyle last weekend. Like with many teams, the bullpen is a bit of a mixed bag. The Rebels' top relief arms, though, have fared well as Mason Nichols and Josh Mallitz have been outstanding.

South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston hired Matt Williams this offseason to replace the outgoing Justin Parker as pitching coach, and the move has paid off. Williams' unit has been among the best in the country this season, ranking in the top-3 in college baseball in ERA, WHIP, and H/9 heading into this week. The Gamecocks will hope to get another strong pitching effort this weekend.

The starting rotation has been announced as Eli Jones (Friday), Dylan Eskew (Saturday), and TBA (Sunday). Roman Kimball has seemed a little off of late, so it will be interesting to see if he, Matthew Becker, Ty Good (who started last Sunday), or one of the talented freshmen (Eddie Copper or Tyler Pitzer) get the nod for the series finale.

USC beat Ole Miss the last time these two teams matched up on the diamond. The 2022 series saw the Gamecocks win 2 of 3, a result most South Carolina baseball fans would take again this weekend. Getting off to a good start in conference play will be essential for the Gamecocks as they have their eyes set on hosting a Regional again in 2024.

Friday's series opener is scheduled to begin at 7:30 PM EST and will be broadcast on the SEC Network+. Game 2 on Saturday is slated for a 2:00 PM EST first pitch and will be available on the SEC Network. The Sunday finale will start at 2:30 PM EST and will be shown on the SEC Network+.

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