Gamecocks prep for SEC opener against LSU

In spite of this year's records, LSU (12-7) and #3 South Carolina (15-2) have a tradition of being two of college baseball's elite teams. When the two squads face off this weekend in Columbia, USC coach Ray Tanner says not much has changed.

"They've got some outstanding talent and some veteran players on that team and a group of newcomers. It looks to me that they've settled in a little bit, and are pretty consistent," Tanner said. "They know what their pitching plans are, and they know how they're going to use the bullpen."

Carolina is 16-10 against LSU since 2000, a record that includes a three game sweep over the Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge last year.

"We won a couple close games down there last year that could have gone either way. A couple of guys pitched well out of the bullpen," Tanner said.

But even with the edge in the series, Tanner knows that it doesn't matter who USC would play to open the SEC schedule, especially with six teams in the top 30.

"This is SEC baseball," Tanner said. "It's opening week in the SEC. Who do you pick if you want to play somebody? Who do you pick? You can't pick somebody, everybody is good."

Tanner had released a starting rotation similar to last weekend, but following media interviews, the head coach scrapped Sunday starter Arik Hempy for a player yet to be announced. Pitchers Harris Honeycutt (4-0) and Mike Cisco (2-0) will get the starts on Friday and Saturday, respectively. USC will continue to start Harley Lail in place of Robbie Grinestaff, but Grinestaff could see an at bat this weekend.

"We've won 15 out of our 17 games, and we've played pretty well at times. We've been pretty consistent," Tanner said. "We've been swinging the bats pretty well in seven or eight of those games. There were a handful where we didn't swing them well, but we were able to win. Am I pleased with our record? Absolutely. You'd like to be undefeated, but it's hard to do that."

With the heart of USC's schedule to come, Tanner is just ready to begin a journey that hopefully leads back to Omaha.

"It's a whole new season tomorrow," Tanner said.

The series opener between the Gamecocks and Tigers is set for 7 p.m. on Friday night at Sarge Frye Field.

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