Top Five Teams Square Off This Weekend

The South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers will renew their storied baseball rivalry this weekend during a home and home series that will serve as a great early season benchmark for both programs. The two teams have evenly split the series 14-14 since 2000, and this year's series promises to be as competitive as ever.



Both teams have amazing similarities between them, including being ranked in the Top Five nationally in Baseball America. The following is a breakdown of the two squads entering into the weekend:

PITCHING

The Gamecocks are sending Harris Honeycutt to the mound Saturday and Mike Cisco will get the nod on Sunday. Coach Ray Tanner said Cisco's experience in the rivalry is the reason he's getting the start ahead of Jay Brown. Tanner then noted that Brown will start Tuesday against the College of Charleston and could be ready to start against Brown University five days later.

Brown isn't expected to be called on in relief this weekend, and neither is Arik Hempy. Tanner said Hempy, who has been rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery since last season, could see time next weekend against Brown.

Gamecock fans can expect to see Tanner go to the bullpen a little earlier this weekend, and most likely to be called upon first is left-hander Will Atwood. In three appearances out of the bullpen this year, the sophomore standout has a 1.04 ERA with seven strikeouts and no walks.

Even though Clemson is the best opponent USC has seen so far, Tanner still plans on going to freshmen Blake Cooper and Nick Fuller out of the bullpen in big situations. Expect to possibly see more of Wynn Pelzer and Jeff Jeffords as well because of their experience.

Clemson is sending David Kopp to the mound Saturday and lefty Ryan Hinson, who pitched well in Columbia last year, on Sunday.

P.J. Zocchi, the expected ace of the Clemson staff, threw 85 pitches Wednesday against Winthrop and isn't expected to see time this weekend.

When the Tigers go to the bullpen, Gamecock fans can expect to see plenty of Daniel Moskos' fastballs. Through four appearances this year, Moskos has a 0.00 ERA with seven strikeouts and two walks. The lefty has given Carolina plenty of trouble in the past, and Jack Leggett will count on him quite often this season.

Stephen Clyne is 2-0 this year out of the bullpen and has 10 strikeouts and only one walk through 10.2 innings of work. D.J. Mitchell, who sees time in the outfield, has been moved to the bullpen this year and recorded his first win earlier this year.


HITTING

The Gamecocks are led by Phil Disher and his .424 average so far this season. Disher is still riding high after last weekend's heroics and hopes to be called upon to do the same this week.

There won't be any changes this week in who starts, but expect Travis Jones to hit in the bottom of the order on Saturday and leadoff on Sunday. Tanner said until Jones gets more comfortable, expect to see him leadoff against lefties and Hurst against right-handers.

Andrew Crisp is 100% after his wrist injury last weekend, and he'll start in center field against the Tigers. Robbie Grinestaff isn't expected to see anytime this weekend because of his hamstring injury.

Clemson isn't at full strength going into this weekend either. Starting shortstop Stan Widmann is out this weekend with a neck injury, and junior infielder Taylor Harbin, who can play both second base and shortstop, has moved to help fill his spot. Freshman Ben Paulsen is expected to start at second base in place of Harbin.

Brad Chalk and Doug Hogan lead the Tigers each with a .433 batting average. The surprise so far is the slow start that first baseman Andy D'Alessio has had. He's hitting just .185 but started to come out of his slump Wednesday against Winthrop with a triple and a home run.


ClARY'S ANALYSIS

I really would be surprised if there was a sweep by either team this weekend. I expect Clemson to win a close one, and the Gamecocks to put up a lot of runs in the other game on their way to a win. Clemson starter Ryan Hinson had the Gamecocks' number last year, and I expect him to pitch well again on Sunday.

This will be an outstanding weekend of baseball, and if you are going, you will witness the best college baseball rivalry in all of America.

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