The Gamecocks are 34-11 after a big series win against Alabama last weekend and will enter this weekend's series against Georgia in the top ten of nearly every poll. South Carolina's highest ranking is 7th (ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and NCBWA) and the Gamecocks are ranked 14th in the only poll that has them outside of the top ten (Collegiate Baseball). The Bulldogs, who are 21-22-1, are not ranked. The Gamecocks lead 61-49 in the all-time series against the Bulldogs. South Carolina swept the series against Georgia last season.
The SEC still has seven teams in the top 20 of the official NCAA RPI rankings, and four of those are in the top eight. Florida (15-6) now has a three-game lead over South Carolina (12-9), but South Carolina has an excellent chance to close the gap some this weekend as Florida plays a tough road series at Alabama. Vandy (11-10), Kentucky (9-12), Tennessee (8-13), and Georgia (7-13) follow the two leaders in the East, with Missouri (6-15) in last. In the West, both Alabama and Ole Miss have a 13-8 record, but Alabama has the tie-breaker over the Rebels. They are followed by LSU (12-8), Mississippi State (11-10), Arkansas and Texas A&M (both 10-11), and finally Auburn (9-12).
The Bulldogs are 21-22-1 (7-13-1) and are 62nd in the RPI rankings. Georgia began the season 2-6, with series losses to both Georgia Southern and FSU, but was on a ten-game winning streak entering conference play. The Bulldogs won their first game against Mississippi State, but lost the series. The next weekend they lost two games to LSU, then tied them in the third game. The Bulldogs won their next three series, beating Texas A&M, Missouri and Tennessee. However, Georgia is now on an eight-game losing streak that includes sweeps by both Florida and Vanderbilt. Georgia is hitting .256 overall (.228 in conference play) with an on-base percentage of .356. The Bulldogs have an ERA of 4.25 and opponents are hitting .267 against them.
The Gamecocks, at 34-11 (12-9) are ranked 6th in the RPI. Carolina has gone 6-1 since the five straight losses a couple of weeks ago and has won two consecutive SEC series for the first time this season. The Gamecocks are now hitting .286 overall (.268 in conference play) with an on-base percentage of .359. Despite a pretty good weekend at the plate against Alabama and a slight improvement in the overall offensive numbers, the Gamecocks now only have 3 starters hitting over .300, and one of those (Bright) is injured. However, the Gamecocks are getting contributions from a variety of players, both those that are more experienced and some that are younger, which has helped them weather the storm of injuries. The Gamecocks remain one of the top teams in the country in pitching, with an ERA of 2.05 ranking them behind only FIU and Houston. Opponents are hitting just .220 against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina's Friday night starter, junior left-hander Jordan Montgomery, has a 3.55 ERA with 67 strikeouts and 23 walks. Georgia will start sophomore left-hander Ryan Lawlor. He has a 3.65 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 22 walks. Saturday's Gamecock starter will be Jack Wynkoop, who has an ERA of 2.14 with 49 strikeouts and 8 walks. Holbrook was full of praise for his sophomore left-hander on Thursday, stating that Wynkoop has gotten more experienced and confident this season and that he has "pitched really well against some very good teams," though he hasn't always gotten the run support to earn a win. Starting opposite Wynkoop on Saturday will be freshman right-hander Robert Tyler, who owns a 2.85 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 18 walks. As usual, freshman right-hander Wil Crowe will start for the Gamecocks on Sunday. Crowe has an ERA of 2.60 with 42 strikeouts and 16 walks. For the second week in a row, Carolina's opponent has not announced a Sunday starter in advance.
As far as injuries go, there aren't a lot of changes from Wednesday morning's injury update on the players that were already hurt. Caldwell did not go to Athens with the team. Schrock and Bright made the trip, but are not expected to contribute much, if at all, this weekend. Bright is the more likely of the two to see playing time though. Unfortunately, two more players have been out of practice all week with an upper respiratory virus. DC Arendas and Jordan Gore both went to Athens separately from the rest of the team so that the virus wouldn't spread. Holbrook said in his press conference on Thursday that Joel Seddon, who in addition to being a closer with an ERA of 0.58 is also apparently a talented infielder, was "getting ready to take some ground balls." Holbrook clarified that playing Seddon in that capacity would be an "emergency situation." But if Arendas and Gore are both unable to play, the Gamecocks will be dangerously short on healthy, experienced infielders. There is certainly enough depth on the roster for the Gamecocks to make do with shuffling players around a bit, but that wouldn't be ideal; hopefully Arendas and Gore and maybe even Bright will be healthy enough that it won't come to that. Coach Holbrook told the media on Thursday that while he feels "snakebit" the players have a "next man up, win anyway" kind of attitude that should serve them well as the team continues to fight through various injuries and illnesses.
Game 1, Friday
Start time: 7 p.m.
Game 2, Saturday
Start time: 1 p.m.
TV: CSS (Online at ESPN3)
Game 3, Sunday
Start time: 1 p.m.
All three games can be heard on the radio at 107.5 The Game