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Weekend Preview: Gamecocks Take on Auburn Sans Bradley, Jr.

Second-ranked South Carolina (32-8 / 14-4) returns to Columbia this weekend to host the Auburn Tigers (23-18 / 9-9). The Gamecocks will seek to avenge their loss to Auburn in last year's SEC Tournament. If they share any sympathy with their padded brethren, they may be thinking of other recent contests with Auburn, as well.

The big news this weekend is that Carolina will be without the services of Jackie Bradley, Jr. Although he's struggled of late, Bradley, Jr., is still the Gamecocks' biggest star, and his presence will definitely be missed.

Like last week, Carolina again comes into this game with a distinct advantage at the mound. Carolina ranks 11th in the nation in team ERA, led by Friday starter Michael Roth's astoundingly low 1.26, which is good for 13th in the nation. The Tigers, on the other hand, rank 187th in the nation, with a paltry 5.02. Although Carolina will be hoping for better performances out of Colby Holmes and Forrest Koumas on Saturday and Sunday, the largest burden will be on Auburn to pitch better if it's to challenge for a series victory in Columbia.

That may be easier said than done, however. Since losing 6-4 to Vandy two weekends ago, Carolina has exploded at the plate, scoring five or more runs in only one of its contests. Look for another strong performance from the Carolina bats against a vulnerable Auburn pitching staff.