The Gamecocks enter this weekend's series against Missouri fresh off of a blowout win over Wofford. South Carolina's ranking varies from 11th (ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll) to 19th (Collegiate Baseball) and Missouri is not ranked. The first ever meeting between Carolina and Missouri on the baseball field was last year, so the Gamecocks lead the overall series 2-1 and are hosting the Tigers for the first time in program history.
Several SEC teams have slipped in the RPI rankings, but there are still seven SEC teams in the top 25 of the official rankings. The top of the SEC West is still very close, with Ole Miss (15-9) leading, followed by Mississippi State (14-10), LSU (13-10), Alabama (13-11), Texas A&M (12-12), Arkansas (11-13), and finally Auburn (9-15). The SEC East has a clear-cut frontrunner in the Florida Gators (18-6), who swept Alabama last weekend to take a decisive lead in the SEC East race. After the Gators it's Vandy (14-10), South Carolina (13-11), Tennessee and Kentucky both at 10-14, then Georgia (9-14) and Missouri (6-18). Florida and Vandy are facing off this weekend, and a series win for the Gators will clinch sole possession of the SEC East title.
Missouri is 20-27 (6-18) and the Tigers are the lowest SEC team in the official NCAA RPI rankings at 111. The Tigers have lost six of the eight SEC series they've played so far. Missouri was swept by Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Florida, and Vandy; they managed to win one game of the series against both Tennessee and Georgia. Missouri's series wins came on the road against Auburn and Kentucky. The Tigers are hitting .249 and have an on-base percentage of .334. Their ERA is 3.94 and opponents are hitting .277 against them.
The Gamecocks are 36-13 (13-11) and are 11th in the official NCAA RPI rankings. The Gamecocks had a very rough weekend against Georgia, with struggles at the plate aggravated by their depleted lineup. Hopefully with a few guys back from injuries and with a home crowd supporting them, the Gamecocks will have a stronger performance this weekend. Carolina is now hitting .282 with a .360 on-base percentage. Despite the poor offensive performance of last weekend, there are plenty of things to be pleased with in the Gamecock lineup. The biggest of those things is probably Grayson Greiner's performance. Greiner is the leading hitter on the team by pretty much every measure. His batting average (.345), on-base percentage (.418) and slugging percentage (.552) are all the best on the team. He is tied for the team lead in doubles, trails only Kyle Martin in total hits, leads the team with eight home runs and has nearly twice as many RBIs as anyone else with 47. The South Carolina pitching staff continues to impress as well. Their ERA is 2.07 and teams are hitting .221 against them. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.94 is sixth best in the country.
Junior left-hander Jordan Montgomery will take the mound on Friday with a 3.33 ERA. He still leads the team in strikeouts by a wide margin, with 69 total strikeouts this season and 23 walks. Missouri will start junior right-handed pitcher Brett Graves. Graves has a 3.25 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 12 walks. Carolina's Saturday starter is sophomore left-hander Jack Wynkoop. His ERA is 2.21, and his 52 strikeouts and 9 walks give him the best strikeout-to-walk ratio on the team at 5.78. On Sunday the Gamecocks will start freshman right-hander Wil Crowe. He has an ERA of 3.15 with 42 strikeouts and 18 walks. Missouri's regular pitching rotation has been disrupted by injuries, and they have not announced a starter for Saturday or Sunday yet. This will be the third straight weekend that the Gamecocks will not know before the series who they will face on the mound on Sunday.
South Carolina's injury situation is improving, and there is hope that the Gamecocks will be back near full strength by the end of the regular season. Wednesday night's game saw the return of Max Schrock, who has been battling injury for most of the season. Both Coach Holbrook and Grayson Greiner expressed what a positive effect Schrock has on the offense when he is in the lineup, so it will be big to keep him healthy and continue to get him playing time. Connor Bright (elbow) is likely still out for this weekend. Fiori, Arendas and Gore, all of whom have been injured or ill recently, are all healthy and able to play again.
Game 1, Friday
Start time: 7 p.m.
Game 2, Saturday
Start time: 3:15 p.m.
TV: SportSouth (Online at ESPN3)
Game 3, Sunday
Start time: 1:30 p.m.
All three games can be heard on the radio at 107.5 The Game