Series Preview: Dawgs vs. Cocks

Riding a four-game winning streak, the South Carolina Gamecocks (20-7, 6-3 SEC) will travel to Athens, GA to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (17-10, 6-3 SEC) in what should be a highly-contested SEC match-up. The three-game series should have major SEC East implications as both teams are tied for second place in the East with 6-3 records, just a game back from the East-leading Florida Gators.

Weather – Friday's game could be a hot one as temperatures will be in the 80's all day. As the sun goes down the temperature will drop into the 70's or low 60's. Game time temperature should be 78 degrees with a 60 percent chance of precipitation.

Saturday's temps should be cooler with a first pitch temp of 71 degrees. Rain is very likely during the day, but the chances should drop by game time. This one could get pushed back some. Sunday's weather should be much more baseball-friendly as there is just a 10 percent chance of rain and a high of 76 degrees.

Game times – Friday 6:30 p.m. | Saturday 4:00 p.m. | Friday 2:00 p.m. Saturday's game will start two hours after Georgia's spring football game.

Series History – South Carolina leads the overall series 49-43. During the Ray Tanner era at USC the Gamecocks are 23-15 and are 18-11 this decade. The two teams have split the series at an even nine games apiece in the last 18 contests.

Strange Games – The Gamecocks and Bulldogs have developed somewhat of a rivalry on the baseball diamond in recent years sparked by a close overall season record, a wild Super Regional match-up, and some moments in games that you simply had to see to believe.

One such moment came in Game 1 of South Carolina's Super Regional match-up with Georgia in 2006. Already leading 3-0, the Gamecocks tied a collegiate record (Eastern Illinois VS Morehead State, April 10, 1998) with five consecutive home runs courtesy of Neil Giesler, Justin Smoak, Phil Disher, Drew Crisp, and Robbie Grinestaff. The Gamecocks homered a total of eight times in the 15-6 thrashing of the Bulldogs in one of the most unreal displays of raw power ever seen on a college field. Georgia would get the last laugh, however, as they won the last two games to take the series and go on to Omaha.

A moment just as whacky happened last season in what at one time was going to be the last game at Sarge Frye Field, before USC decided to play one more season at the tradition-rich park. With the Gamecocks trailing 13-5, and Georgia cruising to a likely win in the rubber game of a three-game series it appeared as if all hope was lost for South Carolina. Not ready to concede victory yet, the Gamecocks exploded for nine runs on seven hits as well as three Bulldog errors to take a 14-13 lead and go on to win the game. RBI doubles from Justin Smoak, Phil Disher, Kyle Enders, and Cheyne Hurst brought the Yardcocks back as Harris Honeycutt came on in the ninth to mow down the Dawgs in what was one of the most miraculous come-backs in Sarge Frye Field history.

Coaches – In his 12th season at South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner has compiled an incredible record of 520-227 at USC, including a 221-159 record in SEC play. In the past eight seasons Tanner's Gamecocks have a 388-155 record good for the fourth highest win total in Division 1 college baseball. During that time-span, USC also has an SEC-best 147-92 record in conference games. Tanner has also led the Gamecocks to three straight College World Series from 2002-2004 as well as eight NCAA Regionals, seven NCAA Super Regionals, and two SEC Championships. Tanner recently picked up his 900th career win against arch-rival Clemson and with the Gamecocks posting a 20-7 record this season Tanner has pushed his all-time record to 915-400-3 in 21+ seasons.

In his seventh season as Georgia's head coach David Perno has compiled a record of 223-169. The 40-year old head coach has led the Bulldogs to two College World Series (2004 and 2006) and has also gone as an assistant coach and a player with UGA. Georgia has only gone to seven NCAA Regionals ever and three of those have been under Perno's guidance.

South Carolina Road/Georgia Home Records – South Carolina is 4-2 on the road, while Georgia is 9-5 at home.

Expected Pitching Rotations – South Carolina will send to the mound junior RHP Mike Cisco (4-1, 5.25 ERA) on Friday, junior LHP Will Atwood (3-0, 4.1 ERA) on Saturday, and sophomore Blake Cooper (3-2, 3.03 ERA) on Sunday.

On the hill for Georgia will be junior RHP Trevor Holder (3-2, 2.38 ERA) on Friday, junior RHP Stephen Dodson (4-1, 4.28 ERA) on Saturday, and junior LHP Nathan Moreau (1-0, 3.10 ERA) on Sunday.

Mike Cisco will take the mound Friday looking to erase the worst outing of the year from his memory. Cisco was rocked by Kentucky last Friday as the Charleston native gave up 12 runs on 12 hits in just three innings of work. Up until that point, the unbeaten Cisco had pitched extremely well and had a sterling ERA of 2.45.

Cisco has started six games and given up 45 hits and 21 earned runs on 36.0 innings of work. The Bulldogs will counter with junior Trevor Holder. Holder is coming off a no-decision against Mississippi State that UGA went on to lose 2-3. Holder pitched well enough to win going six innings giving up just one earned run on five hits. Holder has been solid on the year starting six games while giving up just 34 hits and 9 earned runs on 34.0 innings of work.

Will Atwood will face the Bulldogs fresh off of a win against Kentucky in which the lefty gave up six hits on five earned runs through six innings of work. Atwood, acting as the only left-hander in the rotation, has been solid on the season giving up 12 earned runs and 19 hits in 26.1 innings of work.

For the Bulldogs Stephen Dodson will make his seventh start of the season against the Gamecocks. Dodson picked up the 5-1 win for Georgia last week against Mississippi State with an outstanding seven-inning, one-run gem. Dodson has pitched 33.2 innings on the season and has given up 37 hits and 16 earned runs. Opponents are hitting .282 against the righty.

Sunday starter Blake Cooper is fresh off an excellent start in which he pitched 6.2 innings and gave up just one earned run. Cooper leads all Gamecock pitchers with 35.1 innings pitched and has given up 39 hits and 12 earned runs. Facing off with Cooper will be junior Nathan Moreau who will be looking to forget his last outing in which he left the game after just 2.1 innings of work. Moreau has pitched well on the year, though, giving up ten earned runs on 23 hits on 29.0 innings pitched.

The Gamecocks have a team ERA of 3.88 while opponents are batting .250 against them. The Bulldogs team ERA is 3.66 with opponents hitting .242.

Relief Pitching – The Gamecocks will be looking for more relievers to step up as life goes on without Curtis Johnson, who is out for the season with an injured shoulder.

Junior RHP Brandon Todd (1-1, 2.70 ERA) has come on strong as of late, and not at a moment too soon for the Gamecocks. Todd has pitched ten innings giving up eight hits and three earned runs. The Ocala, FL native, who also has two saves on the year, will be asked to step into a bigger role for the rest of the year.

Senior RHP Nick Godwin (2-2, 2.88), the team's weekday and fourth starter should be available for some innings out of the pen. Godwin has been consistent in his weekday starts and has stepped up big for the Gamecocks. Opponents are hitting just .197 against Godwin.

Junior LHP Alex Farotto (0-0, 2.25 ERA) has been a situational lefty out of the pen, but has only given up two earned runs on the season.

Freshman RHP Parker Bangs (2-0, 3.55 ERA) has shown a ton of potential this year and could see his role on the staff increase as the season goes on. Bangs is a two-way player who is hitting .400 in five at-bats and has given up five earns runs on 12.2 innings pitched.

Freshmen Justin Hopper (0-0, 5.06 ERA) and Sam Dyson (2-0, 5.73 ERA), as well as junior Craig Thomas (0-1, 4.24 ERA) could also be available out of the pen.

The Bulldog bullpen is led by game-ending specialist Joshua Fields (0-1, 0.00 ERA) who has been practically unhittable on the season with seven saves. The spectacular closer has yet to give up an earned run on the season and has given up just five hits in 13.1 innings.

Alex McRee (4-1, 3.57 ERA) has pitched the most innings out of the pen for the Dawgs giving up six earned runs on 22.2 innings of work. Opposing batters are hitting just .202 against McRee.

McRee, Justin Earls (0-1, 2.95 ERA), Nick Montgomery (1-0, 3.32 ERA), and Dean Weaver (0-1, 3.38 ERA) all have at least ten appearances on the season.

The Georgia bullpen did not give up a single earned run while striking out 12 against Mississippi State last weekend in 12.2 innings. Hitting – On offense the Gamecocks are paced by juniors Justin Smoak, Reese Havens, and James Darnell, as well as senior Phil Disher.

A future first round pick, Smoak is hitting .340 on the year with six home runs and 23 RBI. Havens is hitting a team-leading .387 with eight home runs and 36 RBI. Third baseman Darnell has rebounded from an early-season slump to raise his batting average to .345. Darnell has hit a team-leading nine home runs to go along with a team-leading 40 RBI. Catcher and designated hitter Disher also started slow, but the senior leader has come on strong as of late and is hitting .295 on the year. Disher has hit eight home runs and 29 RBI.

The Gamecocks are hitting .318 as a team (second in the SEC) and an SEC-leading 1.64 home runs (sixth in the country) a game.

On offense the Bulldogs are led by National Player of the Year candidate Gordon Beckham. Beckham is hitting .435 on the season with 15 home runs and 36 RBI. Beckham has a slugging percentage of .913.

The Dawgs have two other players hitting above .300 in Rich Poythress and Ryan Peisel. Poythress is second on the team with a .374 batting average and has seven home runs and 27 RBI. Peisel is hitting .339 with four home runs and 24 RBI.

Overall the Bulldogs are hitting exactly .300 as a team with 44 home runs on the year.

Who's Hot – DH Phil Disher has been on a tear lately with game-winning RBI hits against Kentucky and The Citadel. Disher earned SEC Player of the Week honors for his 5-for-12 effort against Kentucky that saw him knock in series-high seven RBI and hit the 30th home run of his career. Disher also had a career-high four hits against Davidson Wednesday.

Third baseman James Darnell tied a school record for home runs in a game with three against Kentucky last weekend—the second time in two weeks he accomplished that feat. The six-RBI day led to Darnell being named National Player of the Week. Darnell followed up his great weekend with a four-hit night on Tuesday against The Citadel and a three-run blast against Davidson Wednesday.

Andrew Crisp returned to the full-time line-up after nursing a sore back early in the season and promptly tied a career-high with a 19-game hit streak. Unfortunately for Crisp that streak ended against Davidson. Crisp is hitting .321 on the season.

For the Bulldogs star-hitter Gordon Beckham hit a game-winning homer to clinch the series against Mississippi State on Sunday.

Junior designated hitter and catcher Bryce Massanari showed up in a big way in the same series hitting .556 with two RBI and four walks.


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