At 7:00pm on ESPN Tuesday night the South Carolina Gamecocks (51-14, 22-8 SEC) will resume their defense of their 2010 National Championship. Ray Tanner's squad will be squaring off against the Virginia Cavaliers (55-10, 22-8 SEC) for the right to stay in the winner's bracket. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series with the Cavaliers 34 - 28. The teams last met in 2006 in Charlottesville when USC helped knock the hosting Cavaliers out of the NCAA tournament. UVA has only played in the NCAA tournament 11 times, but this year marks the 8th such time in as many years. The Cavaliers made their first trip to the College World Series in 2009, where they beat Cal St. Fullerton but lost to LSU and Arkansas.
Virginia has been playing solid baseball all year long. The Wahoos (that's their unofficial nickname, which, apparently, stems from the baseball rivalry with Va. Tech in the 1890s) were often ranked atop the baseball world and might have stayed there if not for an ugly end-of-the-year sweep at the hands of the UNC Tarheels. The 'Hoos hold a team ERA of 2.24, batting average against of .212, and a batting average of .307. For comparison, the Gamecocks post marks of 2.56, .228, and .296, respectively.
Offensively, UVA is led by catcher John Hicks and third baseman Steven Proscia. Hicks is batting .338 and slugging .506. Proscia leads the team in home runs (8), RBIs (59), and is batting .331. The Cavaliers have five players batting over .300. Meanwhile, Jackie Bradley, Jr. has returned to the lineup for USC and has shown that he is still capable of contributing at a high level. Christian Walker leads the Gamecocks at the plate with a .357 average, .556 slg% (highest of either team), and a .439 ob%. After a 4-4 performance with a walk on Sunday night, Scott Wingo has increased his batting average to .350(!) and his ob% to .475 (highest of either team). The Gamecocks have stolen 39 bases in 57 attempts (.684) while the Wahoos have swiped 88 bag in 121 attempts (.727).
Virgina Coach Brian O'Connor will start RHP Will Roberts (11-1, 1.58 ERA). You can read more on Roberts directly above this post. South Carlina will likely go with sophomore RHP Colby Holmes (7-3, 3.78 ERA). Despite his youth, Holmes has pitched well this year when Carolina has needed him the most - and they need him on Tuesday night. Holmes lays claim to a .232 batting average against while his counterpart's BAA hovers right at .204. I expect Ray Tanner to go to the bullpen at the first sign of trouble in order to keep the game close. USC has great pitching, but it is not all that deep. Staying in the winner's bracket and getting the two days off before Friday will be essential to Carolina's chances of advancing to the championship series.
My apologies for the brevity of this preview, but the quick turn around of these games doesn't just take its toll on the players. For more insight check out our Q&A with Streaking the Lawn and their Q&A with us.