Gamecocks continue tough stretch with Clemson

After dropping two-of-three to Arkansas over the weekend, things for the South Carolina baseball team won't get any easier as they play host to Clemson on Tuesday and travel to the upstate on Wednesday. The Gamecocks took game one of the four game series with the Tigers on a 3-1 win in Clemson. For more details, continue reading below.

Things aren't exactly going spectacular for either South Carolina or Clemson this season. The Gamecocks have built a 20-10 record but are at 5-7 in the SEC and have dropped three of their first four conference series. Likewise, the Tigers are just 20-10 but a 9-6 record in the ACC has them currently sitting first in the Atlantic Division.

But USC coach Ray Tanner believes that none of that will matter when the teams meet for game two of their annual four game series on Tuesday at Carolina Stadium at 7 p.m.

"I don't think anything matters when we play. It's just the rivalry game and whatever either team is doing in the SEC or ACC I don't think it really figures in," Tanner said. Though they dropped two-of-three against Arkansas over the weekend, the Gamecocks come in tied for third in the SEC Eastern Division and are in the midst of a tough eight game stretch. Following these two midweek games against Clemson, USC travels to Oxford, MS for a weekend series with Ole Miss.

In spite of the tough stretch, the Carolina players are trying to keep things upbeat.

"There's no concern, it's still pretty loose (in the locker room)," USC utility player Parker Bangs said. "It just hasn't been bouncing our way. Things will start averaging out eventually and I feel like we'll win some games then."

Following Sunday's loss to Arkansas, Tanner was asked who he was considering for possible pitching starters during the two games against Clemson. His response was pretty much that he had no clue yet.

"I'm not sure. I'm not sure what we're going to do on Tuesday to be honest with you," Tanner said.

On Monday, Tanner decided to send senior Jay Brown (2-0, 1.96 ERA) to the hill to face off with Clemson starter Justin Sarratt (3-1, 3.81 ERA). Neither team has decided on a possible arm for Wednesday's game.

While the starting arms aren't totally clear yet, one thing remains unchanged – Tanner is treating this game the same as he would any weekend series in conference play. Though the top arms on the staff will most likely not available for the games, the coach made it clear that his philosophy on the series has not changed and he will use anybody he can in any situation to pick up the win.

"The approach is going to be you try to win. I've been guilty in the past of getting caught up in games and maybe using guys and not having them available for the next game – so be it," Tanner said. "I can't go into these games any other way and I don't think they can either. We're both trying to win. We'll worry about what comes in the future in the future."

The lackluster records between the two teams have made for a slight drop in spotlight being shined on the two teams. Neither squad comes higher than 20th in the national polls but both squads were receiving votes. However Tanner is excited that the two teams will be facing off with each other for the first time at the new Carolina Stadium. The two teams were scheduled to meet on March 1 but poor weather forced the reschedule to Tuesday.

While conditions aren't ideal, Tanner has no doubt that the game will still be a great one. "It's just a great environment, no matter what either one of us are doing right now. I know that they're probably not getting a lot of respect nationally and certainly we're not, but when we get together it's always a great game," Tanner said.

When asked if the two teams' struggles in their conferences added any special meaning in terms of need for a win, Tanner responded by saying the game itself was all the motivation either team would need.

"It's the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry. I don't know that you can add anything," Tanner said. "You just go play and it's an exciting game, it's a great rivalry and both teams are going to be trying to win."

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