Gamecocks Get Ready for Slug Fest

The Gamecock Baseball team has one goal this weekend – score as many runs as they can. Then score some more. This weekend's series against the Mississippi State Bulldogs promises to be a slug fest and guarantees no lead is safe. Read inside for Ryan Clary's analysis of this weekend's key SEC matchup.

The Bulldogs come in with a 13-4 record and like the Gamecocks won their first SEC series of the season. Mississippi St. outscored the Florida Gators 34-32 last weekend to take two of three from Florida.

The Bulldogs have three hitters who have started all 17 games with averages over .400. Catcher Edward Easley leads the way with a .493 batting average and six HRs. Easley went 6-10 against the Gators and consistently holds down the third spot in the batting order.

Shortstop Brand Turner has a .412 batting average and an amazing .468 OBP (on base percentage). Leadoff man Jeffery Rea is hitting .403 and his speed has caused problems for opposing catchers. Trent Kline will have his hands full this weekend if Rea gets on base. The Bulldogs are 17-26 on the year in the stolen base department.

The Bulldogs are hitting an SEC leading .374 as a team, and although they don't hit a lot of HRs, they aren't short of power. Easley and freshman third baseman Connor Powers provide plenty of pop when needed. Powers, who's hitting .353, has benefited from hitting behind a loaded group of hitters.

The Gamecocks can be happy they're seeing to right handed starters this weekend. The Gamecocks prefer hard throwing right handers over any other pitchers. Aaron Weatherford (3-0) gets the start on Friday and although his off speed pitch is effective, his fastball is his best pitch. Weatherford has a strikeout to walk ratio of 31-8.

Lefty Justin Pigott gets the nod on Saturday and although his 2-2 record isn't very impressive, you never know what Gamecock team shows up against a left hander.

Senior Josh Johnson (2-0) will start Sunday and don't get too caught up with his 6.75 ERA because Florida added to that.

As impressive as the Bulldogs bats have been, the bullpen has been a little shaky. Only 11 guys have taken the hill for Mississippi St. this year and there is no true closer. Ricky Bowen and Chad Crosswhite each have two saves and three other guys have one save a piece. If the Gamecocks can get the starters out early, the Bulldogs could run into trouble.

South Carolina shouldn't have too much trouble this weekend scoring runs, and look for Andrew Crisp and James Darnell to shine. The bottom of the order needs to come through but Crisp and Darnell are swinging hot bats and that should continue this weekend.

CLARY'S ANALYSIS

Sometimes in shootouts, it's who gets the last at bat. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks are the visitors and if a shootout occurs, Wynn Pelzer will have to step up big. The Gamecocks have the big advantage in the bullpen and Curtis Johnson and Pelzer will need to shine.

It won't be easy containing the Bulldogs and don't be surprised if this is the weekend where Honeycutt comes back down to earth. However a win is a win and the Gamecocks don't care how they get them.

It's important for the Gamecocks to win Friday because no one knows how they'll do against a lefty. The Gamecocks need to bring the bats that hit this weekend because if they don't, they'll be staring a 2-4 SEC record in the face.

Whichever bullpen can step up, that'll be the team that wins this series.

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