Tanner, Gamecocks host West Coast Power

After pulling out back-to-back-to-back two run victories, South Carolina plays host to traditional Big West power Long Beach State in a three game series at Carolina Stadium this weekend. Game 1 starts Friday at 7 p.m. The series will be the first of six straight days of baseball for the Gamecocks. For more info, continue reading below.

Maybe South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner knew what would happen over the last week. Perhaps he foresaw his team having to hang on for three consecutive two run victories over the last three games.

While no one knows that for sure, the boot-camp like training that Tanner is putting his No. 18 Gamecocks through continues this weekend and into next week as Carolina plays host to West Coast baseball power Long Beach State for a three-game series that will mark the beginning of six straight days of baseball at Carolina Stadium. All this comes just before the team jumps into conference play at No. 1 LSU next weekend.

"I told the guys last night I know we're in a situation where you guys would like to have pitch back or play back and that kind of thing. But what we're going through is good for us," Tanner said. "We're going to be in this a lot. You go through this a lot in the league. On one hand you go ‘well you'd like to have won 10-2' but on the other hand it's not as beneficial as being in a close game."

Though they improved to 6-0 over the last three games it hasn't been easy. After using a ninth inning home run to upset rival Clemson last weekend, the Gamecock got out early and held on for a 2-0 win over Georgia State and had to rally from a 1-0 deficit for a 6-4 win over Charleston Southern.

Now the team will face arguably its toughest test aside from Clemson. The Dirtbags (2-5) have struggled in the early part of the season having dropped two games to Southern Cal and all three games in last weekend's series against the University of California.

Despite the slow start out of the gate, Tanner knows that the sub .500 record Long Beach State brings in is deceiving. Over the last seven years, LBSU has finished no lower than second in the Big West Conference standings and has made the NCAA Tournament six of the last seven years. Coach Mike Weathers' willingness to play a tough schedule at the beginning of the season is something Tanner thinks makes his team all the more dangerous as the season rolls along.

"Coach Weathers and even going back to coach (Dave) Snow when he was coach and coach Weathers was his assistant at Long Beach, they played a tough early schedule," Tanner said. (Cal State) "Fullerton's had a reputation for doing that too and not getting out of the blocks well. But at the end of the year where are they? They're in the thick of it. That's what they're accustomed to doing. I know coach Weathers has a lot of confidence in his team and he thinks they'll be a factor in the Big West."

Though they bring a formidable reputation as being a club that can contended with the best teams in the nation, the style of play difference between the two squads is something coaches and players have been focusing on in preparation for the series. The Gamecocks, like a lot of southern baseball teams, have traditionally been a power hitting team as compared to the Dirtbags who bring a more West Coast slapstick type of baseball to the park.

But those differences only add to the level of alertness according to USC leftfielder DeAngelo Mack.

"Defensive wise we're going to have to be a little bit more on our toes. They're going to want to slash, bunt, hit and run stuff. That's the type of ball they like to play and we're just going to have to be ready for it," Mack said. "We face every team the same. We're going to show them a great deal of respect. We're going to come out ready to play them and try to win the series."

After the Long Beach State series things don't get any easier for the Gamecocks as the team announced today they would be moving the home game against Presbyterian from April 7 to March 9 in order to make adjustments for the previously postponed Clemson game. The Tigers will play back-to-back nights in Columbia over the April 7-8 stretch while USC will now play six straight games in a row starting on Friday.

While the rest of the student body enjoys spring break, Mack says he and his teammates are happy to sacrifice a day off for a baseball game.

"It's fine. That's what we look for. That's why we come to this University to play. We're not really too worried about it," Mack said. "Since a lot of us have been here we haven't had a spring break so it really doesn't matter. We're just happy to be playing ball and we're going to try to get some wins there."

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