Gamecocks hoping to bounce back against Vandy

South Carolina returns to the diamond on Friday night to start a three-game series against Vanderbilt in hopes of erasing the memory of last weekend's three-game series sweep at the hands of Florida. The Gamecocks fell to fourth place in the SEC Eastern Division race and are ninth overall in the conference standings, putting them one spot out from being in the SEC Tournament. Look below for more.

It took six SEC series before the South Carolina baseball team evened its conference record back to .500. And it only took one weekend to drop them three games below that mark.

After working their way to a 9-9 conference record with two wins against Auburn over the April 17-18 weekend, the Gamecocks traveled to Gainesville last weekend looking to establish themselves as contender in a muddled SEC East with a three-game set against Florida. Instead, they backslid to three straight loses by an average of 4.7 runs and are now sitting ninth overall in the SEC standings, one spot out of contention for a slot in the conference tournament.

With a week-long break from the field for exams, Carolina returns to action on Friday as they start a three-game series with Vanderbilt.

"I've probably gone through it more times than I should have but you have no choice but to put it away," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "Reality is what it is and we've got to get back to the drawing board and try to fight our way in to get an opportunity to play at the end of the year."

Whether or not the week off from playing will do USC any good is yet to be seen. But it did give Tanner and his coaches the opportunity to do something they haven't been able to do with the strenuous playing schedule – practice. The Gamecocks have scheduled practices during the week around exams and after a slow start to the workouts things have progressively picked up.

"It didn't start out that way. I think because of the weekend that we had at Florida it started out a little bit low but we were able to get a little better as time went on so we've had some pretty good workout," Tanner said. "Hopefully we'll bounce around a little bit and be ready to go tomorrow."

The practices might be just the remedy Tanner is looking for to improve his team after an awful showing against Florida. In the three games, USC collected 27 hits but just 12 runs and committed six errors including three in Friday night's 9-4 loss.

While the fielding and hitting were struggling, the effort from the mound was also lackluster as the pitching staff gave up 26 runs and 36 hits. Couple with a 12-2 loss to Clemson, USC is now in the midst of a four-game losing streak where they have been outscored 38-14 with seven errors. So it comes as no surprise that the Tanner feels his team is itching to retake the field.

"I think that's the normal reaction that when you have a weekend like we had and coming Sunday night you were hoping that you could play a game Monday morning, that kind of thing. But everybody goes through it. We haven't had a great year but we've hung in there pretty good and the Florida weekend was tough for us," Tanner said. "We haven't really experienced a weekend like that where everything sort of went south at the same time. Untimely defensive miscues, poor pitching, lack of offense in key situations so it was the first time we've had to experience it all in one weekend. We've got to bounce back."

The Gamecocks (27-18, 9-12 SEC) sit just behind Vanderbilt (27-17, 10-10 SEC) in the Eastern Division standings and are in ninth in the overall conference standings. That puts them one spot away from being in the SEC Tournament at the end of the season with three conference series left on the season.

Getting a win in Game 1 won't be easy, as the Gamecocks will go up against Commodore ace Mike Minor in the Friday night game. The match up pairs Minor against USC ace Sam Dyson which has been a hot topic among professional scouts according to Tanner.

"He's a really good one and likely to be a first round draft choice and Sam Dyson's likely to be there too," Tanner said. "I've been getting some calls this week from scouts and some scouting directors and people that are coming in to see the match up. Two pretty good guys going at each other."

Though the goal each weekend is to come away with a series win, Tanner won't say the Gamecocks have to sweep the series in order stay in the running but they must have a much stronger weekend this time around in order to keep pace.

"I don't think you can go into a weekend like that. It's a coaching cliché but you've got to play them one at a time and really you have to go one inning at time. You can't try to put too much on your shoulders at one time," Tanner said. "We've got to find our way back into contention. That being said there are some other teams that are having to fight to stay alive as well. We've just got to do what we can do and take care of our own business."

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