Weekend Review: Gamecocks Off To Good Start

Ray Tanner's ball club didn't quite get the result they were hoping for in the opening weekend of conference play, but winning two out of three against SEC-West rival LSU isn't a bad start.

South Carolina took the front and back end of the weekend series against the Bayou Bengals from LSU, but Saturday's game got away, and looking back, it was a very winnable contest for these Gamecocks.

Catcher Trent Kline led the way for USC this weekend, going 8-13 at the plate with three doubles, four runs, one home run and five RBIs. Kline was plugged into the number two spot in the batting order and has shined since. He now leads the team with a .380 batting average and eight doubles.

Senior Jon Willard got into the action once again, providing a crucial home run on Saturday and a nice sacrifice bunt Sunday.

Junior outfielder Harley Lail continues to help the team in the leadoff role, and what better way to start a series than with a leadoff home run.

However, for the most part, the Gamecock bats were shut down this weekend, in large part due to LSU starting pitchers Charlie Furbush and Jared Bradford. Friday night Furbush's hard left handed fastball and smooth off speed pitch kept the Gamecocks off balance.

On Saturday, the Gamecock left handed hitters were unable to sit back on outside changeups and backdoor sliders from Bradford. Even though Bradford was a right hander, Tanner may look back and wish he had used more right handed hitters down the stretch. By the time they came in during the 9th inning, it was too little, too late.

Although the Gamecocks are hitting just under .300 as a team, adjustments are going to have to be made if this squad is going to reach its goal of winning the SEC.

The pitching staff once again did an outstanding job this weekend, led by Harris Honeycutt's three hit shutout in seven innings of work on Friday night. Young freshman Blake Cooper gave another fine performance, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings in only his second start of the year on Sunday afternoon. Sophomore righthander Mike Cisco was credited with his first loss of the year on Saturday after surrending seven hits and four runs in six innings of work, but most of the Tigers' success against him came off well timed slap hits.

The bullpen was once again solid over the weekend, despite hard throwing closer Wynn Pelzer giving up two runs in Sunday's win. Tanner and pitching coach Mark Calvi have to feel good about where their staff is right now, even with previous starter Jay Brown on the injured list. Brown will be re-evaluated this week.

The Gamecock defense made three errors this weekend, which for Carolina is a little high. But the most costly defensive mistake was made Saturday when the infield came in with the bases loaded and one out, instead of playing for two. A hit up the middle led to two LSU runs and the Gamecocks lost by one.

With all of that said, Tanner has got his boys in good shape after the opening weekend. The Gamecocks won the series and walked away with no new injuries. The return of Robbie Grinestaff to 100 percent only boosts a very strong USC bench.

Carolina now has two weekday games against UNC Asheville and Wofford before traveling to Mississippi State next weekend. Anytime the Gamecocks travel in the SEC, a series win is what you shoot for.

This Gamecock squad is widely considered to be the most talented team in the SEC, and with the conference opening series now in the books, South Carolina fans can look forward to a fun and entertaining ride as Tanner's troops head into the heart of their schedule.

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