South Carolina (3-0) travels to Greenville, North Carolina Friday to take on the ECU Pirates (2-2). The Purple Pirates are coming off an opening weekend that saw them drop two games to the number one team in the country, The University of Virginia. More recently, ECU laid the wood to Old Dominion (3-1) on Tuesday, pounding out 16 hits en route to an 11-2 victory.
More after the jump.
Carolina fans, of course, will remember our last meeting with ECU when the Pirates won back-to-back elimination matches to knock us out of the Greenville regional. This year's edition of the Purple Pirates is every bit the championship squad as last year's, if not more so. Lead by Sophmore LHP Kevin Brandt (1-0), ECU currently holds a team ERA of 5.75. Offensively, ECU's team batting average currently sits at a good, but not Earth-shattering .331. Freshman infielder John Wooten (no, not that John Wooten) leads the team hitting .417 with 3 hr and 6 rbi.
Meanwhile, South Carolina (3-0) enters the weekend hitting an even .330 with a team ERA of 3.00. Not a bad stat line, even in light of the Gamecock's competition thus far. Carolina figures to get a boost from the return of Senior 1b, Nick Ebert, who is back much earlier than anticipated after failing to make sufficient progress toward his degree. Ebert will likely take over the DH spot since Jeffery Jones has been on fire since opening day (.333 avg, 3 hr, 10 rbi). That makes for a formidable lineup no matter who is on the mound. Once we get Jackie Bradley, Jr. back into fold, we'll have a 1-5 line up (Merrifield, Bradley, Walker, Ebert, Jones) that will rival any in the country.
As for weekend expectations, I like our chances. Ray Tanner's offenses are capable of exploding at any time. Ebert as a late edition is a huge boost. What's more is Tanner's pitchers have historically performed better in the early season. Presumably, this is attributed to Tanner putting to much stress on his young men's arms, but in the early part of the season this shouldn't be a concern. With a little bit of luck we could come out of this weekend with a 5-1 record. I don't dare dream of going 3-0 against a solid ECU team on their home turf. Even if we manage just one win in Greenville this weekend, all is not lost. Carolina's season has always been made or broke in SEC play. As long as we leave Greenville with at least one win on Sunday night, the Gamecocks will be on track to make the post season and possibly acheive the 40-win milestone for the 11th year in a row.