Ray Tanner's Gamecocks struggled out of the gate in conference play, dropping the Friday night game to David Perno and the Georgia Bulldawgs 4-2. Junior starter Michael Roth gave up just 2 earned runs in 6.1 innings of work, but the big story of the Friday night contest was the five errors committed by the Gamecocks. Christian Walker, Adrian Morales, Peter Mooney, Michael Roth, and John Taylor committed an error a piece. Mooney now has eight errors on the season, surpassing Bobby Haney's total for all of 2010. The 'Dawgs did their part to keep Carolina in the game, somehow managing to to only score 4 runs despite 8 hits and he 5 errors by Carolina. However, USC just couldn't get anything going on offense.
The Gamecocks fared better in game 2 behind a strong outing from Junior Steven Neff. USC even the series by a score of 2-1. Neff gave Carolina 7 innings in which he surrendered just 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 4 and walking 1. Adrian Morales continued his hot weekend by by going 3-4 after going 2-4 on Friday night. Despite 10 hits, the Gamecocks only manged to scrape together 2 runs and left 8 batters on base.
Carolina finally managed to pull away from the worst staff ERA in the SEC on Sunday. The Gamecocks again had 10 hits on the day, but this time plated 8 runs to take the game 8-3. After a routine first inning, Carolina starter Adam Westmoreland struggled with his command in the 2nd inning. After hitting a batter, walking a batter, and hitting another batter to begin the inning, Ray Tanner elected to pull Westmoreland in favor of freshman reliever Forrest Koumas. Koumas went 3.1 innings while striking out 6 and walking 3. We might be seeing Koumas in a starting role later in the season he continues to perform like this. The big hitters on the day for the 'Cocks were Scott Wingo and Adam Mathews. Mathews was 3-3, which raised his average to .292. Wingo went 2-3 with a run scored and an RBI. It wasn't all coming up roses for USC, though. Jackie Bradley, Jr. struggled over the weekend going a combined 0-11. And you wouldn't know it from the Gamecocks' 8 runs, but USC stranded 14 base runners on Sunday.
More after the jump.
After taking the series from the 'Dawgs by a 2-1 margin, the Gamecocks are now tied for second in the SEC East. They're 1 game behind Florida, who they'll face this coming weekend. South Carolina now has one conference series under its belt. Even though UGA may not be the SEC's most formidable opponent, Carolina should be glad to come away with a series win after playing far from its best baseball. Jackie Bradley, Jr.'s struggles at the plate are a little disconcerting, but if there's one player on the team I trust to come out of a funk, it's him. I suspect that a lot of his struggles over the weekend may have been due to Ray Tanner's moving him up and down the lineup in an attempt to jump-start his team's offense. Having JBJ hit leadoff was an intriguing proposition, but I think we can all agree that it didn't work out. Hopefully JBJ will be back to his usual self this weekend once he's moved back down the lineup and has a little more protection. I wouldn't start to worry unless Bradley is still 0-for heading into Saturday's game against the Gators. After all, he's still hitting .288 on the season.
Meanwhile, Evan Marzilli is mired in what can only be described as a sophomore slump (that's soph-O-more to you, Andy Demetra). Marzilli is currently hitting .211 after batting .385 in 2010. People seem to have forgotten that last year's team wasn't an offensive juggernaut. It wasn't until a freshman Evan Marzilli came on that the Gamecocks really found their groove on the offensive side of the ball. If the Gamecocks are going to be successful this year, they're going to need some production from an unexpected source, or at the very least, Marzilli to return to his 2010 form.
The good news is, much like last year, the pitching staff has become the surprise strength of this team. After losing Blake Cooper and Sam Dyson from last year's championship squad, there were more than a few questions as to who would take over the weekend roles in 2011. Both Michael Roth (ERA 1.34, 4-1) and Steven Neff (ERA 2.49, 2-0) stepped up to fill the weekend starting roles. Unfortunately, though, USC has once again been unable to find a reliable Sunday starter. It appears as though we'll be forced to go the "by committee" route. Carolina's team ERA now sits at 2.76, good enough for third in the league. Carolina is, again, third in opponents batting average at .232. For comparison, UGA's numbers are 4.35 (12th) and .276 (10th), respectively. USC is 2nd in the league in runs allowed (61), trailing only Florida (55).
But as you might imagine with a handful of struggling stars at the plate, USC's batting statistics are a little less impressive. As a team the Gamecocks are batting .286, which is good enough for 9th in the league. Carolina is led by Adrian Morales (.386), Christian Walker (.358), and Jake Williams (.347). No one else for USC is hitting above .300. Scott Wingo's average currently sits at .263, well above his mark for last year of .247.
This week Carolina will take on the College of Charleston on Tuesday before battling Rhode Island on Wednesday. USC leads the all-time series 42-5. This will be USC's first meeting the Rhode Island Rams. In an interesting twist, CofC dropped a a game to Rhode Island last weekend while hosting the Cougar Invitational. Carolina will end the weekend with a series against the Florida Gators.