USC gearing up for final stretch run with UGA
This time last season, the South Carolina baseball team was heading into its final weekend of regular season play in dire need of wins. At one game below .500 in SEC play, the Gamecocks had to win two of three from Tennessee to qualify for the conference tournament.
But that was then. Now the Gamecocks find themselves not fighting for a spot in the SEC Tournament but working on what seed they'll be among the field of eight teams. With three games left against Georgia this weekend, USC is fighting for a possible No. 5/6 seed in the conference tournament. Quite a different situation from where they were last season.
"I know last year we had to win two out of three in the last weekend to get to Hoover against Tennessee and that's a lot to have on your shoulders. These guys have clinched by virtue of the two wins last weekend against Tennessee so hopefully we'll be relaxed and come out and play some great baseball," Tanner said. "Normally this time of year, last weekend, this weekend, there's a lot that shakes out. I haven't spent too much time looking at it other than just trying to be able to be in position to win tomorrow."
The road to a better seed won't be easy as the Gamecock (34-19, 14-13 SEC) play host to a Georgia team that spent a large portion of the season ranked as the No. 1 team in the country. The Bulldogs (35-17,15-12 SEC) have hit a rough patch as of late. A win in the series finale against Vanderbilt last weekend snapped an eight game losing streak and Georgia picked up a win over No. 7 Georgia Tech in a mid-week game.
In recent match ups between the two teams, Georgia has won 10 of the last 13 games including a three-game sweep last season in Athens. The Gamecocks enter the weekend having won seven of the last eight games, including four in a row after a doubleheader sweep of USC Upstate on Tuesday. The differences in the two teams makes Tanner aware that the weekend series could possibly go either way.
"I think it's one of those situations that in our league if you play well you have a chance. If the other team plays well, it's a barnburner. If you don't play well, you don't have much of a chance to win. And we're playing a Georgia team that's hit a few bumps in the road. They had a big win last night over Georgia Tech but they've faced reality a little bit in the last few weeks. But they're a great club," Tanner said. "They've got a lot of weapons and that's why they were ranked No. 1 in the country a few weeks ago."
Tanner has made an emphasis to his team about playing their best baseball at the right time of the year. While it is a long shot, the Gamecocks are still a possible contender for a host site in the NCAA Tournament but are still looking to seal a bid with a strong finish to the season. The hot streak could mean the team is peaking at the right time which is something Tanner hopes will help as the season draws to a finish.
"If you can have a good weekend now and you can play deep into the tournament in Hoover then you sort of are poised to make a run. That's sort of what you gear up for," Tanner said. "We qualified for Hoover, we'd like to think that we can get into the NCAA and then it's a new season. So you're really just trying to build a little momentum and I think we do it one game at a time. I don't think we look too far ahead, we haven't done that all year. We've been very much realistic about what we've done and we've met about it and talked about it and we try to get better as we go. We've been a little bit better the last two weeks."
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