Weekend Review: USC Wins Big Road Series
Winning two out of three games at home in a weekend SEC series is usually not what you hope for, but when you take two out of three on the road in the best conference in baseball, you've done well.
The South Carolina baseball team finished a week that Coach Ray Tanner would like to soon forget, but the ending is one he'd like to hold onto.
Taking two of three from a high powered Mississippi State ball club this past weekend was big for this Gamecock team, which now heads into the biggest series of the season next weekend against Vanderbilt.
As predicted, USC was ready for the slug fest against the Bulldogs over the weekend, and Carolina tallied up 52 hits, with almost half coming in Friday night's 20-3 win.
It was important for the Gamecock hitters to find a rhythm as a team after losing Lonnie Chisenhall, and they certainly did that. Trent Kline looks comfortable in the number three spot, and James Darnell went 7-16 in the number two hole.
The biggest surprise was the 8-15 performance by Reese Havens, who now looks much more comfortable at the plate. Tanner's advice of being more aggressive has really paid off for Havens and Justin Smoak, who was Sunday's hero going 4-5.
It's nice to see that for the most part Tanner has found a lineup where he feels comfortable, instead of moving guys up and down the lineup like he was forced to do last year. Having guys like Robbie Grinestaff, Cheyne Hurst, John Willard and Steven Reinhold has really allowed Tanner to play the way he likes to, and this weekend was a perfect example of that.
The Gamecocks have proved over and over again that they can hit hard throwing right handers, but the verdict is still out against lefties. Even though the Gamecocks had one of their best performances ever against lefty Justin Pigott, pounding out 11 hits, USC just isn't consistent enough at the plate yet.
If there is one guy who needs to step it up, it's Travis Jones. The junior second baseman has been a gem in the field, but his .258 average and inability to have productive at bats late in games has hurt the team at times. Jones is a better hitter than he is showing right now.
The Gamecock pitching staff knew coming into Starkville, MS, that they would be in for a challenge, and looking back at the competition they faced, that may have been the best overall job of the year.
Harris Honeycutt didn't have the best game of his career, but the junior righthander held the hot hitting Bulldogs to just three runs in 6 2/3 innings of work to pave the way for USC's blowout win on Friday night.
Mike Cisco and Blake Cooper both had decent performances and certainly didn't give up the big inning to cost the Gamecocks.
The bullpen was outstanding once again. From Alex Farrato's K-athon on Friday night, to Wynn Pelzer shutting the door on the series Sunday, the Gamecock bullpen was once again on its game.
The difference between last year and this season is astonishing. Will Atwood's curveball took a back seat Saturday to his fastball, and he continues to provide ways to get opposing hitters out.
Jeff Jeffords is continuing to show he can be called upon in tough situations, and although Curtis Johnson got the loss on Saturday, he gave three strong innings, allowing only three hits and striking out four.
The pitching staff is outdoing itself this season, but they will need to continue this if the Gamecocks are to win the SEC. Pitching Coach Mark Calvi obviously is doing something right, and don't look for a setback anytime soon.
The Gamecocks did well this weekend by taking two out of three. The team has really come together after the incident early last week, which seems now so long ago. Look for the Gamecocks to continue to rally together heading into the biggest weekend of the year.
CLARY'S WEEKEND AWARDS
MVP – Reese Havens went 8-15 at the plate with six RBIs and provided another solid performance in the field.
BEST PITCHER – Although Honeycutt was once again outstanding, Jeffords gets the award this week for his 3 2/3's outing on Sunday. He allowed only two hits, one run and no walks while striking out six. More importantly, he shut down the Bulldog hitters after they had a chance to bust the game open after taking a 2-0 lead.
BEST COACHING JOB – Monty Lee got his hitters ready to hit this weekend and made sure he packed the bats that hit.
(and just for fun)
WORST RULE CHANGE – Expanding the strike zone to five inches off the outside corner. Seriously, umpires, what was up with that this weekend? What's that Pelzer? Oh, right... shhhhhhhhhh.
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