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FIRST BASE: Georgia's to lose? [April 21]

Oooh. On time for once.

How important is the race for the SEC East division crown?

In the larger scheme of things, not very. At least not for South Carolina. After all, the top eight SEC teams get into the postseason tournament -- the two division champs and the best six remaining teams. With a weak SEC West and the Gamecocks already 11-7 in conference play, it's pretty likely that South Carolina will play in the tournament.

But in terms of making life easier once you get to Hoover -- like Omaha, a city that only college baseball teams actually want to visit in summer -- winning the division can matter.

The two division champions shall be automatically seeded number one and number two based on winning percentage in conference competition.

Looking at the way the two divisions are shaping up right now, that means winning the East could make the difference between playing a first-round game against the No. 8 seed or the No. 6 seed. That would be the difference between playing Alabama (22-19, 8-10) and playing Florida (25-15, 10-8). Projecting beyond that in a double-elimination tournament is foolish; in fact, these projections are only to make a larger point, since the exact seedings will change between now and the tournament.

But it will make a difference. And there is, of course, the very really pride factor, especially if the race comes down to South Carolina vs. Georgia -- something that seems likely. The teams are 1-2 with 16 games left for the Gamecocks and 15 left for the spelling-challenged Dawgs. (Both, it should be noted, still face Florida and one of the other two would-be contenders, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, so this could change.)

This is where the sweep at the hands of Georgia hurts; the Gamecocks are 3.5 games out -- meaning all but a fraction of the spelling-challenged Dawgs' lead springs from that series.

How does the schedule shape up?

Not a huge difference, but South Carolina's remaining conference foes are four games under .500 in SEC play, while the opponents left on Georgia's slate are five games over .500 in the league.

In other words, the road is easier for South Carolina from here. Easier enough to make the difference? That's still sketchy. But wouldn't it look a lot better if that deficit were 2.5 games or 1.5 games or even half a game?

Blake Cooper, who surrendered just one run on six hits during his complete game against Ole Miss. The performance -- the first complete game for the Gamecocks in two years -- won Cooper SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. Oh, and it came in the rubber game of the series.

From this week's release:

South Carolina owns a 24-0 record when scoring six runs or more this season.

The flip side of that, of course, is that the team is 5-11 when scoring fewer than six runs.

Tuesday: at Furman, 7 p.m.
Wednesday: vs. Wofford, 7 p.m.
Weekend: at LSU, 8 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday