Series Primer: No. 15 South Carolina

No. 2 LSU will look to continue their run through the SEC this weekend when No. 15 South Carolina comes to Alex Box Stadium. The two teams are very comparable in almost every statistical aspect and LSU coach Paul Mainieri expects another competitive series for his Tigers.

After playing their last two SEC series on the road, No. 2 LSU (38-4, 15-3) will be hosting No. 15 South Carolina (31-11, 11-7) for a three game set beginning on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. It seems as though each weekend that LSU plays a conference series, it only gets tougher. That will certainly be the case when the Gamecocks step into Alex Box Stadium this weekend. This series could be perhaps the biggest test that LSU has faced so far this season, and it could have a huge impact on the standings in the SEC. LSU coach Paul Mainieri is expecting a very competitive baseball-filled weekend.

"We have a tough series this weekend and I have a lot of respect for the South Carolina program. They are playing good ball and when I look at them, I don't see a weakness. I feel like it's an inter-squad game and I expect it to be some very good baseball games against this team. Our players and coaches are excited about it."

From what he has seen from the Gamecocks so far this season, senior Raph Rhymes is also expecting a tough weekend of games.

"It's always fun playing South Carolina," said Rhymes. "The atmosphere will be great this weekend and we get to play another great opponent."

The LSU offense has struggled a bit in recent weeks, with offensive leaders Alex Bregman and Mason Katz seemingly cooling off a bit at the plate. However, they still lead the team in hitting. Bregman enters the weekend with a .412 average with five homeruns and 41 RBI. Katz has seen his production dip the most over the last few weeks as his average is now at .390 with 13 homeruns and 60 RBI. The offense will be heavily relied upon this weekend for the Tigers.

For the first time this season, LSU will have to face an offense that is realistically comparable to their own. South Carolina is hitting .291 as a team and they have tremendous power potential. The Gamecocks have compiled 39 homeruns so far in 2013, compared to 33 by LSU.

South Carolina is led at the plate by senior LB Dantzler. So far in 2013, Dantzler has collected a .340 batting average to go along with twelve homeruns and 42 RBI. Sophomore Joey Pankake could also pose a problem for LSU because of his power numbers so far this season. Pankake comes into the weekend with a .314 batting average and eight homeruns.

Mainieri believes that the South Carolina offense will be a real test for the pitching staff of the Bayou Bengals this weekend.

"I see a solid team offensively," said Mainieri. "They have several guys that can really hit. It should be a challenge."

In terms of pitching, LSU's starting rotation has been solid all spring. Aaron Nola has been Aaron Nola in recent weeks. He enters the weekend coming off back-to-back complete games against Arkansas and Alabama and he is sporting a 2.15 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 71 innings pitched, while remaining undefeated with a record of 7-0.

There have been a few minor road bumps over the last couple of weeks with junior Ryan Eades. The talented right-hander has been hit fairly hard in his last two outings, something that has been uncharacteristic of Eades. He enters the weekend with a record of 7-1 and an ERA of 2.56 over 63.1 innings.

With the first two slots in the pitching rotation set, it is still up in the air as to who will start for the Tigers on Sunday. Junior Cody Glenn has looked very good in recent weeks after a slow start in SEC play. However, junior Kurt McCune has looked very dominant in starts and out of the pen since returning from his back injury that sidelined him for the early part of the 2013 season. Because of this, the Sunday starter will not be decided on until the first two games of the series have been played this weekend.

South Carolina brings perhaps the best pitching staff that LSU will face this season into the Baton Rouge this weekend, as they have a team ERA of 3.12. Senior Nolan Belcher leads the Gamecocks on the mound with a record of 6-3 and an ERA of 1.70 through 74 innings pitched. While Belcher doesn't throw particularly hard, he will pose a great test for the offense of LSU.

Sophomore Jordan Montgomery will take the mound for South Carolina on Saturday. He has compiled a record of 3-0 to go along with a 1.14 ERA in 31.2 innings. The Gamecocks, much like LSU, have yet to decide on who will start the game on Sunday and it will likely end up being a situation much like that of LSU's.

From what he has seen out of the South Carolina pitching staff so far this season, Mainieri is expecting a very competitive matchup with the LSU offense.

"They have a very top-heavy left-handed rotation," said Mainieri. "They have a great bullpen and everyone seems to be pitching great."

Raph Rhymes is also familiar with the pitching staff of the Gamecocks and he understands the challenge that is facing the Tigers this weekend.

"I remember playing them last year very well," said Rhymes. "Because Belcher doesn't throw hard, coach has really preached to us that we need an opposite field approach. It will be fun going up against these guys."

Here is the full breakdown of pitching matchups for the weekend.

Game 1

LSU – SO RHP Aaron Nola (7-0, 2.15 ERA, 71.0 IP, 82 SO)
USC – SR LHP Nolan Belcher (6-3, 1.70 ERA, 74.0 IP, 61 SO)

Game 2

LSU – JR RHP Ryan Eades (7-1, 2.56 ERA, 63.1 IP, 59 SO)
USC – SO LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-0, 1.14 ERA, 31.2 IP, 30 SO)

Game 3


Click the link below for the latest from LSU's Mason Katz on the new lineup changes and what he expects out of South Carolina this weekend.

TSD TV: Mason Katz

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