The rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson picks back up on Friday night at 7 p.m. when the No. 11 Tigers visit Carolina Stadium for the first of a three-game series. The teams will continue with the home-and-home format with a neutral site game at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C. wedged in between.
One of my favorite parts of being a fan of Gamecock baseball is being involved in what is widely considered to be the best rivalry in college baseball. In the week leading up to the Carolina-Clemson series, the rivalry gets plenty of love from people covering baseball on both the national level and the local level, and from the coaches and players involved. The intensity of the rivalry has been heightened the past few seasons by the success of both teams and several high-stakes postseason meetings. South Carolina leads the series 11-5 over the past four seasons. Neither team has swept the regular season series during that time, but in both 2010 and 2012 the Gamecocks won two in a row against Clemson in the postseason to send the Tigers home for the year. With both teams off to a good start and cherishing high hopes for this season, the atmosphere at the three games this weekend should be as exciting and heated as ever.
Clemson dropped their opening game of the season to Eastern Michigan, but has since won 6 straight. They won the series against Eastern Michigan, swept Maine (outscoring them 28-7 over the three-game series), and beat Presbyterian 4-2 on Tuesday. The Tigers have a batting average of .322 and an on-base percentage of .388. Their pitching staff has an ERA of 2.81, with 54 strikeouts and 11 walks.
The Gamecocks have had as great a start to the season as anyone could ask for, sweeping both Bucknell and Eastern Kentucky and beating Presbyterian as well. The offense has been good so far, with a team batting average of .319, an on-base percentage of .432, and a one-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. Of course, pitching has been the story of the season so far for the Gamecocks. The pitching staff enters Friday's game having thrown 5 straight shutouts and 51 straight scoreless innings. They have an ERA of 0.86, with 70 strikeouts and 15 walks. Opponents are hitting just .179 against them.
While those numbers look good for the Gamecocks, both teams have accrued those stats against significantly weaker competition than what they'll see in each other this weekend. Friday night's pitching battle between left-handed junior Jordan Montgomery and Clemson's right-handed junior Daniel Gossett should be a lot of fun to watch. On Saturday, Jack Wynkoop will get the start opposite Clemson's Matthew Crownover and on Sunday Wil Crowe will be up against Clemson's Jake Long. There will be plenty of talent and experience on the field from both teams, and fans can expect an emotional, hard-fought series. However, if the Gamecocks can continue to pitch at a high level against tougher competition and if the offense can step up and take advantage of the opportunities it creates to score, South Carolina will walk away with the series win for the fourth straight year.
Game 1, Friday:
Start Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Columbia, S.C. (Carolina Stadium)
TV: FOX Sports South
Game 2, Saturday:
Start time: 2 p.m.
Location: Greenville, S.C. (Fluor Field)
TV: ESPN3 and WMYA (aired by local affiliates)
Game 3, Sunday:
Start time: 4 p.m.
Location: Clemson, S.C. (Doug Kingsmore Stadium)
Stream: audio and video available from Clemson website