It was a good weekend of baseball for South Carolina, as the Gamecocks swept the visiting Mississippi St. Bulldogs. Carolina moved to 27-10 / 7-6 on the year, while the Bulldogs are now 21-5 / 5-10. With both teams entering the weekend with 5-7 league records, this was an important tilt, and Carolina worked it splendidly. The Gamecocks have been at the bottom of the standings since losing five of six in the opening series against Kentucky and Florida, and while a first-place finish in the East is unlikely at this point, we can still finish among the top, as well as host through the Super Regionals. Winning this series--with a sweep, no less--was a crucial step towards those goals.
The story of the weekend was again the Saturday and Sunday pitching. Michael Roth pitched the worst game I can remember from him on Friday, but the Gamecocks managed to bail him out with some late-inning heroics. Jordan Montgomery and Colby Holmes, on the other hand, were both solid. Montgomery gave up a single ER in 6.1 innings of work, while Holmes gave up four ER in 8.1 innings. That's not a good number for Holmes, but the fact is that a couple of those came very late when we would have pulled him earlier under better circumstances. With our bullpen worn out, we needed him to go deep. He did that, and we got the win. Both of these two are playing well right now, which is the best thing we could hope for with Forrest Koumas struggling with a sore elbow.
Our bats also came alive this weekend. After a long stretch of games where it seemed like no one other than Christian Walker or Evan Marzili could hit the ball and we couldn't put more than two or three runs on the board, the Gamecocks had a more balanced attack this weekend. Ray Tanner had this to say:
I just think that we are getting some better swings off. That's been the key. You have to battle and be aggressive and those types of things, but you have to get some better swings off. If you can hit enough balls hard, you are going to get some balls to fall for you. You are going to get some "tweeners." You are going to get a couple bunts to go down. That's, for me, what has been the difference between where we are right now and where we've been. We are just attacking a little bit better. I was impressed all weekend with Mississippi State's starters. There were some good arms out there. We are fortunate to be in the position that we are in today. We did some good things. We didn't score a boat-load of runs, but we won one one-run game and two two-run games. That is how close it is in this league.
In particular, L.B. Dantzler, Adam Matthews, Joey Pankake, and Grayson Greiner all had good weekends. I was also impressed with our resilience with two outs on Saturday, as we had been leaving a lot of baserunners on over the course of the year. In all, the Gamecocks tallied 31 hits on the weekend; I'm not going to take the time to look it up, but I'm assuming that's the best we've done for a weekend series so far this year. That's particularly impressive considering that this series was supposed to feature pitching duels.
After a visit from College of Charleston, the Gamecocks travel to the Plains to take on Auburn this weekend. The Tigers are currently 19-16 / 7-8. They're coming off a series loss at Vanderbilt, which had been struggling. It's always tough to win on the road, so I don't expect dominance next weekend. That said, Auburn is struggling mightily right now, so I think this is an excellent opportunity for us to win a visiting series and continue to get our confidence up as we approach more meaningful showdowns with Arkansas, Georgia, and LSU.