Super Regional Preview: The Road To Omaha Rolls On

South Carolina battles East Carolina beginning Saturday at 1:00 p.m. in a best-of-three series to see who gets the right to move on to the College World Series in Omaha next weekend. Both clubs come in red-hot, having swept their Regionals. USC is aiming for its third straight trip to Omaha. East Carolina wants to take its first ever trip to the CWS. Game 2 is Sunday at 12 noon.

SUPER REGIONAL PREVIEW

SOUTH CAROLINA v. EAST CAROLINA

What: NCAA Super Regional

When: Sat. June 12, 1 p.m.; Sun. June 13, 12 noon; Mon. June 14, 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. (If Nec.)

Where: Sarge Frye Field, Columbia, SC

SOUTH CAROLINA (48-15)

The Gamecocks, the No. 2 national seed, are two wins away from a school record third straight trip to Omaha and the College World Series. USC swept through its Regional last weekend, beating North Carolina twice.

The key matchup in this Super Regional will be USC's pitchers against ECU's hitters. There is no question USC's Big Four of Matt Campbell (9-4, 3.02 ERA, 129 K in 107.1 IP), Aaron Rawl (12-4, 4.32 ERA), Billy Buckner (6-2, 3.16, 95 K in 77.0 IP), and Chad Blackwell (17 saves, 73 K in 54.2 IP) are the best group of hurlers ECU has seen all season. Arik Hempy (3-1, 3.33), who may have the best stuff on the staff, and Zac McCamie (6-0, 3.38), who pitched impressively at the SEC Tournament, did not see any action during the Regionals and should be well rested.

If you're a USC fan, it certainly has to be encouraging that USC swept the Regional without getting any help offensively from Landon Powell (.339-19 HR-64 RBI) and Brendan Winn (.313-18-64), who were a combined 0-for-23 last weekend. If they are able to snap out of their slumps, USC will be tough to beat. The BMOC during the Regional was Steve Pearce (.326-19-63), the Regional MVP. Steve Tolleson (.325) is one of the best leadoff hitters in the country when he's healthy.

EAST CAROLINA (51-11)

The most important question this weekend is this: How good are the Pirates? They have certainly compiled a gaudy record, but Conference USA will never be confused with the SEC when it comes to baseball. The Pirates hosted a Regional in Kinston, NC last weekend and swept through without much difficulty. ECU is as high as No. 3 in the national polls.

As has been well documented by now, ECU head coach Randy Mazey is a former player for Clemson, so you know he would like nothing better than to end the Gamecocks' season at Sarge Frye Field. Mazey's comments this week are evidence that ECU will come to Columbia with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. The Pirates are perturbed they are not hosting this Super Regional, and believe they are just as good as the Gamecocks.

He certainly has the hitters to advance to Omaha. The Pirates are one of the few clubs that can match USC in power (100 HR). They have five regulars hitting above .322. Ryan Jones (.402-19-69, 24 doubles) was the Conference USA Player of the Year. Ryan Norwood (.383-14-62, 32 doubles) isn't far behind. The leading home run hitter is Trevor Lawhorn, who has 21 roundtrippers and 66 RBI. Jamie Paige (.362) is a quality leadoff hitter.

There are no flame throwers on the ECU pitching staff, but they are effective. The Pirates three starters are a combined 25-1. Again, questions about ECU's competition pop up. Greg Bunn (10-0, 2.66 ERA) is undefeated and has allowed only 67 hits in 101.2 IP. He features a good breaking ball, and mixes in a good changeup and works the corners. Shane Matthews (7-1, 3.72) and Brody Taylor (8-0, 4.57) are the other two starters. ECU lacks a dominant closer. Mike Flye (5 saves) is the top saves guy out of the bullpen.

PROJECTED STARTERS:

SOUTH CAROLINA

C-Landon Powell 1B-Steve Pearce 2B-Kevin Melillo SS-Steve Tolleson 3B-Bryan Triplett LF-Michael Campbell CF-Davy Gregg RF-Brendan Winn DH–Ryan Mahoney

EAST CAROLINA

C-John Poppert 1B-Ryan Norwood 2B-Trevor Lawhorn SS-Billy Richardson 3B-Mark Minicozzi OF-Ryan Jones OF-Drew Costanzo OF-Jamie Paige DH-Brett Lindgren

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