The Gamecocks (37-12 / 16-8) are back in action this weekend, with a key three-game series at Georgia (28-21 / 12-12). Carolina is currently one of the hottest teams in country, having won six straight SEC series, including 13 of the last 14 conference games, and having risen to the top of the league standings. The Gamecocks are now in the top five in most major polls are appear to be primed for another post-season run. Georgia, for its part, has had an up-and-down season. (This has been a trend in recent years, and the natives are getting a bit restless.) However, the Bulldogs are a talented team that has shown flashes of competitiveness over the course of the season, and they're coming off a series sweep of Auburn. With the Bulldogs looking to keep cranking on a late-season run of their own, and the game on their home turf, we can expect their best shot.
Let's take a look at the probable rotation:
South Carolina - Michael Roth (Sr. LHP) 4-0, 2.82 ERA, 79.2 IP, 22 BB, 60 SO
Georgia - Alex Wood (So. LHP) 6-1, 2.64 ERA, 81.2 IP, 19 BB, 81 SO
South Carolina - Jordan Montgomery (Fr. LHP) 4-1, 3.98 ERA, 52.0 IP, 6 BB, 37 SO
Georgia - Michael Palazzone (Sr. RHP) 2-5, 5.45 ERA, 66.0 IP, 11 BB, 53 SO
South Carolina - TBA
Georgia - Luke Crumley (Fr. RHP) 2-2, 4.02 ERA, 31.1 IP, 14 BB, 20 SO
A few things to note. Obviously, Michael Roth struggled a bit last week, giving up six runs in the first three innings, although not all of those were earned. However, you have to give him credit for keeping the game in check after that point. The seams didn't come loose; he did his part to keep the Gamecocks in the game and to give us a chance to come back. He's still one of the SEC leaders in several significant statistical categories, so, as I've said before, rumors of his demise are exaggerated. This guy is still a very good pitcher, even if he's not quite as dominant as last year.
The one who I thought really struggled last week is Jordan Montgomery, who, after a couple of shaky starts, really needs to pick himself up off the ground and get back at it on Saturday.
Then, the big question mark is Sunday. It's a bit unclear if Colby Holmes will be ready to go again or whether we'll have to wait until LSU to see him again. If he doesn't pitch this weekend, I would like to see us go to Forrest Koumas again. Koumas looked like he was back to form this past Sunday, going toe-to-toe with Arkansas's D.J. Baxendale and keeping the Hogs off the board long enough for us to finally get around to shelling Baxendale and his relief late in the game.
On Georgia's side, as you can see by the starting statistics, the Saturday and Sunday starters are not the best. If we hit the ball well, we should be able to manufacture some runs in these games. And the truth is that we've been hitting the ball increasingly well of late. A couple of guys who deserve a lot of accolades for how they're playing right now are Grayson Greiner and Chase Vergason. Greiner, who is also killing it defensively, has been hitting the ball very hard lately. Among other accomplishments in the series, he hit the first HR that Arkansas ace Ryne Stanek has given up all year. He's recently raised his SEC average above .300. Vergason is also hot. After struggling for several weeks, he's come on well lately and went 5-10 against the Hogs, with several key hits. Past those guys, Christian Walker, Evan Marzilli, and Tanner English are all playing very well from the plate.
Who will win the series? I think the key game will be the Friday night contest. I like us to shell Georgia on Saturday and Sunday; the UGA starters are weak, and things could get even more fun if we get into the bullpen. However, I wouldn't be surprised if we lose a high-scoring game in one of the two contests, particularly if Montgomery continues to struggle. That leaves Friday, and whether Roth shuts UGA down and we get to UGA ace Alex Wood. Should be exciting to see what happens.