An unusual Thursday conference series start, the defending national champion and third-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (23-5, 7-2 SEC) take on the Tennessee Volunteers (19-10, 2-7 SEC) in Knoxville at 7:30 p.m. tonight. The likely reason for game one taking place today is that the matchup is being televised by ESPNU. Saturday's finale will also appear on television, with coverage provided by SportSouth. Gametime on Saturday, April 9 is noon.
While the Vols have 19 overall wins, the UT out-of-conference schedule has been far from difficult. Tennessee's only wins of any note overall are over Kentucky (1) and Ole Miss (1), both conference opponents. The Volunteers are fresh off of a loss to Presbyterian College on Tuesday and enter tonight's game in the midst of a four game losing streak after being swept by No. 4 Florida in their previous weekend series. The current leading hitter for UT is Khayyan Norfolk, a senior 2B hitting .405 with 11 doubles and 3 HR. 3B Matt Duffy has 5 HR, 30 RBI and a .373 average. On the hill, the Vols feature LHP Steven Gruver (3-3, 3.04 ERA).
The Gamecocks enter the series having won six straight, including an SEC sweep of Kentucky and an 18-2 victory over USC Upstate Tuesday night. The big question coming into the weekend for Carolina was the health of star CF Jackie Bradley, Jr., but Bradley, Jr. tweeted yesterday that he'll be playing against the Volunteers. He's currently hitting .299 with 6 HR and 23 RBI. Corner infielders 3B Adrian Morales and 1B Christian Walker lead South Carolina offensively, batting .368 and .364, respectively. Walker has belted 6 HR and Morales 3 HR. The pair have combined for 53 RBI. LHP Michael Roth (6-1, 1.44 ERA) has been oustanding as Carolina's number one pitcher, and sophomore RHP Matt Price (3-2, 3.26 ERA, 7 S) continues to climb the all-time saves ladder at South Carolina, recording 17 in his career thus far, good for eighth place. Freshman RHP Forrest Koumas (3-0, 2.10 ERA) earned SEC Co-Freshman of the Week honors for his performance against the Wildcats last week.
Probable starting arms after the jump.
Probable Starting Pitchers (per GamecocksOnline.com)
South Carolina - Michael Roth (Jr. LHP) 6-1, 1.44 ERA, 50.0 IP, 12 BB, 50 SO
Tennessee - Rob Catapano (Sr. LHP) 2-1, 3.18 ERA, 22.2 IP, 6 BB, 16 SO
South Carolina - Colby Holmes (So. RHP) 2-0, 3.91 ERA, 23.0 IP, 8 BB, 21 SO
Tennessee - Steven Gruver (Jr. LHP) 3-3, 3.04 ERA, 47.1 IP, 10 BB, 49 SO
South Carolina - Forrest Koumas (Fr. RHP) 3-0, 2.10 ERA, 25.2 IP, 10 BB, 26 SO
Tennessee - TBA