Gamecocks get ready to tangle with Tigers
For South Carolina Coach Ray Tanner it won't be a veteran pitcher taking the hill for the No. 4 Gamecocks. Instead, Tanner has called upon relatively unknown redshirt sophomore Craig Thomas for the battle with the No. 14 Tigers.
"He's a guy that's coming off an injury, and he's been pretty good. His bullpen (appearances) have been pretty good," Tanner said. "He's got a tremendous competitive nature about him so we'll go with him."
Thomas has thrown 4 2/3 innings this year, yielding three hits and striking out six. The Lexington High graduate spent last season on the bench recovering from surgery. His last appearance against the Tigers came up at Clemson in 2005 when he pitched for 1/3 of an inning and struck out one.
Helping Thomas with run support will be the hot bat of Travis Jones. The junior earned National Player of the Week honors from Collegiate Baseball after going 9-for-12 and tallying 11 RBI's against Florida last weekend. Five of Jones' hits were homeruns, including a game tying shot in Sunday's 11 inning 8-6 win.
"That was fun to watch," Tanner said. "He's worked very hard. He hasn't put up the offensive numbers he wanted to, but it all came together for him last weekend."
But even Tanner knows Jones will have come down from that kind of streak sooner or later.
"Will he continue on that pace? Probably not, but he certainly helped us win that series in Gainesville," Tanner said.
Jones admitted to not being worried about moving up from the No. 8 spot in the lineup where he was all weekend against Florida.
"We've got a lot of great players so anybody can bat anywhere in the lineup and do a lot of great things," Jones said.
With a two game edge in the series since 2000 (USC 16-14), Tanner knows heading into Wednesday's top 15 showdown between the two schools that momentum is everything. Carolina has won four of their last five games, while Clemson rides a five game win streak into the match up.
"We hope to go out and play well. I know the fact that we won on Sunday - we won that getaway game in Gainesville - it gave us the chance to exhale a little bit," Tanner said. "I think our guys are relaxed and ready to play."
All the coach wants is to see if a youthful arm and solid offense can help the Gamecocks take another one from their arch-rivals.
"I know we'll have to play extremely well, and Craig Thomas is getting an opportunity he hasn't gotten before, and we're hoping that he can capitalize on it that and give us a chance to win this game," Tanner said.
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