Rotation adapts to challenges

South Carolina faced a tall task coming into this season having to replace three regular weekend starters. But so far the success hasn't changed much, with the Gamecocks winning every three game series so far this year. With Michael Roth entrenched in the top spot, several guys behind him are getting a chance, and making the most of their weekend action.

With Michael Roth firmly fixed as South Carolina's number one starter, at least one question regarding the weekend rotation has been answered.

And even though it has been somewhat of a revolving door behind him, the wins keep piling up for a Gamecock baseball team that once again finds itself ranked among the nation's elite.

Players like Tyler Webb, Steven Neff, Adam Westmoreland, and Forrest Koumas have been able to fill gaps for USC, and it will be more of the same this weekend. With Webb and Neff both out currently nursing injuries, and Koumas recovering from an allergic reaction earlier in the week, only junior righthander Colby Holmes has been confirmed for a start thus far.

"Well I would really like for it to be settled," said Coach Ray Tanner. "It's a work in progress for one reason or another, and injuries mostly right now. We've battled hard (and) we've had some guys step up for us and keep us in position to win so I'm very happy about that. But it is an ongoing challenge. This weekend it looks like it'll be Roth at his normal spot. Colby Holmes is the Saturday guy now, and then we'll have to make a decision with what we do on Sunday. Forrest Koumas is a candidate, but we'll have to evaluate him today to determine how we plan to use him."

Colby Holmes has been a solid midweek starter for the Gamecocks this year, earning a 2-0 record while posting a respectable 4.00 earned run average. But facing the Kentucky Wildcats on the weekend is a whole different animal, and Holmes looks to continue his strong pitching in the upcoming start.

"I just want to go out and pitch, pitch my best everytime," said Holmes. "Hopefully moving into the weekend starts, I think I've shown them that I can do it. To get this chance is pretty exciting."

Tyler Webb and Steven Neff both have ERA's under 2.50, but neither will be able to make a start this weekend. In fact despite Webb's 1.83 ERA and 2-1 record, he has only been able to contribute 19.2 innings this year. With those two reliable arms unable to take the mound, it is up to pitchers like Holmes to take the ball and continue to throw well.

"Yeah absolutely, obviously we've got Webb out and we've got Neff out, so some guys need to step up and have a big part in this weekend," said Holmes. "With those guys out it's a big loss, but (someone) is going to have to step up."

Perhaps the biggest question of the weekend is the status of freshman pitcher Forrest Koumas, who spent some time in the hospital earlier this week after a peanut oil in some pasta caused a major allergic reaction in him. Koumas was later treated and released after some close observation, but not before a frightening scene that saw his throat closed up at one point.

But with a life long allergy to peanuts, the pitcher was at least prepared and took the necessary steps to ensure his safety. As he has recovered this week he has gotten back into the swing of things on the practice field, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to start on Sunday.

Koumas had his breakout game this year while coming on in relief to help seal the Clemson series, and again came through big with an excellent start at Florida last weekend. Koumas threw six innings against Florida and only gave up one unearned run, but was outdueled as Florida pitcher Hudson Randall threw a complete game as the Gators won 2-1.

"I just want to get out there and do my part," said Koumas. "If I have to come out of the pen that's fine, but I like to start, it's fun. Just whatever Coach Tanner tells me to do, I'll run out there and do."

No matter who is on the mound, the Gamecocks will be tested against Kentucky, and may be looking for a measure of revenge after falling in the series against the Wildcats last year.

Kentucky enters the weekend struggling at 2-4 in the SEC, but will no doubt be looking to get their season going against top-5 ranked USC.

"I think it doesn't matter who it is and what weekend it is in the Southeastern Conference," said Tanner. "You're going to face good people and difficult challenges and you can't get too wrapped up in what has happened in the past, good or bad. You know you're going to face good people. Just like Alex Meyer tomorrow night, he's a young man that could fly to the top of the draft charts. He's got that kind of arm. There's tremendous challenges in our conference. You've got to try to get your team ready to go."

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