South Carolina Baseball: Gamecocks learn SEC Tournament matchup

South Carolina baseball has lost six games in a row and, in the SEC Tournament, must play an opponent that beat them in a series earlier this year.
South Carolina baseball catcher Cole Messina sliding into home plate against the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier this season
South Carolina baseball catcher Cole Messina sliding into home plate against the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier this season / Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News / USA

South Carolina baseball dropped their weekend series on the road against the Tennessee Volunteers with another ugly sweep. Scoring just 7 runs in the three-game set, the Vols tripled the Gamecocks' scoring output. Over the team's six-game losing streak (the sweep to Tennessee and the sweep against the Georgia Bulldogs), USC was outscored 28-60 or by an average of 4.67 runs to 10 in each game.

Once SEC action wrapped up late Saturday night, Mark Kingston and his team learned their SEC Tournament fate. Facing off in Hoover with a team that beat them earlier in the year in a three-game series, Carolina will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in a single-elimination game in the first round of the SECT. The Gamecocks are the 10-seed, and the Tide are seeded 7th.

First pitch is scheduled for about 2:00 PM EST on Tuesday afternoon. There will be a game prior to 'Bama-Carolina between the Georgia Bulldogs and the LSU Tigers that begins at 10:30 PM EST, so the actual start time will be 30 minutes from the conclusion of the day's first game. The game (and the entire tournament until the championship contest) will be broadcast on the SEC Network and streamed on the ESPN app. The championship will be on ESPN2.

Back in March, South Carolina baseball traveled to Tuscaloosa and lost two games out of three. Rob Vaughn's club took the first two from Mark Kingston's team before the Gamecocks won the series finale. After a big comeback and a near historic choke job in the final frame, Carolina salvaged one win in the series thanks to a throw behind the game-tying run at third base in the 9th inning.

Back then, both South Carolina and Alabama were ranked inside the top-20. However, with poor Mays on each side, the two SEC squads finished with identical 13-17 records in league play (as did the Vanderbilt Commodores, Florida Gators, and LSU Tigers). Now, neither team will have a small number beside their name when they take the field at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium unless it is their SEC Tournament seed number.

Like it has been for the Gamecocks, pitching has been a struggle for 'Bama of late. The Tide have given up 69 runs in 10 contests (USC has given up 79 in 11). Neither team plays good defense, either, as the 'Cocks and 'Tide share identical .975 team fielding percentage numbers. Because of those reasons, runs could be plentiful on Tuesday.

Alabama's lineup has hit better than Carolina's this season. Led by All-American candidate Gage Miller, the Crimson Tide offense has been a top-5 unit in the SEC in 2024. In the SEC regular season statistical standings, Alabama ranks top-5 in batting average, hits, triples, runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS. They also have the fewest strikeouts in the league this year.

If the Gamecocks are going to be able to get a win and advance to further into the tournament, they're going to have to play significantly better than they have in recent weeks. In their last 13 SEC games, USC has won just 4 and trailed in 12 of those games.

The winner of this opening round of the SEC Tournament will play the Arkansas Razorbacks in the same time slot on Wednesday afternoon and likely will have secured their ticket to Regional play. The loser will be eliminated from the SECT and will be on the NCAA Tournament bubble heading into next Monday's NCAA Tournament Selection Show.

A strong RPI number for the Gamecocks (19th after the weekend) would seem to be enough to put the team in the field of 64 teams, but the 33-21 overall record, 13-17 conference mark, and awful finish to the regular season could be damaging to Carolina's hopes of extending their postseason lives.

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