Weekend Preview: Honeycutt out, Hempy in

The University of South Carolina Baseball team will take on Brown this weekend in their final weekend series tune-up before SEC play begins. The Gamecocks (10-2) are coming off a tough loss to the College of Charleston on Wednesday night and are looking to regain the momentum they had after the two game sweep over Clemson last weekend.



Head Coach Ray Tanner has already given the fans a morale boost by announcing the return of pitcher Arik Hempy, who will start on Sunday. Hempy, who was considered South Carolina's ace in the rotation a year ago, hasn't seen the mound since March 31st, 2006 after leaving the LSU game and undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The big question is, how many innings will the junior lefthander go in his first action of the season? Don't expect a six inning performance, however Tanner will let him go longer than one may think because Hempy may be called on against LSU next weekend.

Noticeably missing from the rotation this weekend will be senior pitcher and usual Friday night starter Harris Honeycutt, who is nursing a bicep strain. He is expected to start next Friday night against LSU and be back to 100 percent.

Freshman Blake Cooper will receive his first career start this Friday night in Honeycutt's place. Cooper has seen time out of the bullpen this year, and the young righthander has been impressive in action thus far. Expect Tanner to test Cooper to see how far he can go, but he'll get a quick hook if he gets into trouble early.

Sophomore Mike Cisco will get the start on Saturday. The Mt. Pleasant, S.C. native is pitching better each time out, but expect Tanner to not overwork Cisco to keep him fresh for LSU.


HITTING

For the first time all year, the Gamecocks will go into a weekend without a .400 hitter and a team batting average below .300. However, make no mistake, the Gamecock bats are by no means in a slump.

Phil Disher and Cheyne Hurst are each hitting .391 and not far behind is Lonnie Chisenhall at .370. After not starting the first six games, Hurst has been red hot the last six games and will continue to lead off against right handers.

Justin Smoak got the bat going last weekend against Clemson. The sophomore slugger is learning what it's like to be the guy other teams pitch around, and his patience at the plate is starting to show. He's only hitting .255 in the young season, but the 2006 Freshman All-American has raised his slugging percentage to .489.

If the Gamecocks are going to be successful this year, the bottom of the lineup has to hit well.

James Darnell (.343) and Trent Kline (.302) have done extremely well so far, coming through in clutch situations. Darnell is second on the team with 12 RBIs and Kline got the most important hit of the season to date, a single to beat Clemson 3-2.

Andrew Crisp (.250) and Reese Havens (.146) are not where they want to be right now, but one good weekend could change all of that. Tanner will need these guys to get going if the Gamecocks are going to accomplish their goals of winning the SEC and reaching Omaha.


OPPONENT

Brown is 1-3 so far this season with their lone win coming against Kennesaw State.

Brown will throw three righties against the Gamecocks this weekend. Senior James Cramphin will get the nod on Friday. Cramphin has no decisions so far this year and is 8-13 in his career at Brown.

Freshman Rob Wilcox will get his first career start on Saturday. Wilcox has made one appearance this year going 3.2 innings and has a 4.91 ERA.

Junior Jeff Dietz will make his second start of the season on Sunday. Dietz is 0-1 but in that loss went 7.0 innings with four Ks and no walks.

When Dietz isn't pitching, he starts at first base, and so far this year, he's second on the team in hitting at .353. Dietz also leads the team in HRs with two and RBIs with seven. Designated hitter J.J. Eno leads the Bears with a .417 batting average.

As a team, the Bears are hitting .298 with four home runs, while opponents are hitting .355.


CLARY'S ANALYSIS

The Gamecocks should have no problem sweeping the Bears, even with testing some new starters this weekend. This will be the final warm up for the bullpen arms, but Tanner has growing confidence in his relief pitchers

Look for the bats to shine again this weekend and for plenty of balls to find their way to the softball field. Andrew Crisp needs to get it going, and I expect him to have a solid showing against the Bears.

All eyes will be on Hempy, but don't expect a dominating performance. Let's all hope there is no pain and that he feels comfortable in his first action back. Anything after that is just icing on the cake.

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