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Weekend wrap-up: Gamecocks sweep Auburn, keep pace with SEC leaders

It is said that history repeats itself, and for the Gamecocks this weekend that certainly appears to be true. For the eleventh straight weekend this season, the South Carolina Gamecocks (35-8, 17-4 SEC) took a series from their opponent. The Gamecocks swept Auburn (23-21, 9-12 SEC) en route to recording their twelfth straight series win versus the Tigers. In fact, USC hasn't dropped a series to the Tigers since Ray Tanner's first season as skipper in 1997. The Gamecocks now lead the all-time series with the Tigers 37-19. However, history worked against the Gamecocks this weekend as well. For the third straight week USC exited the weekend with fewer outfielders than it entered. This time the victim was DeSean Anderson, who suffered a pulled hamstring on Sunday while trying to beat out a double play to first base. Anderson is the fifth USC outfielder to be sidelined for one reason or another in the last month. The Gamecocks have already lost Adam Mathews and Jackie Bradley, Jr. for the season. Hamstrings can be a touchy thing, as the re-injury to Adam Mathews has proven, so I wouldn't expect Anderson to rejoin the team for at least two weeks - probably more.

Anderson, who is hitting .167 in 18 at-bats this season, is no great loss at the moment.  But taken in conjunction with the slew of other injuries, I'm sure Ray Tanner would rather have him than not. As it stands now, it appears Evan Marzilli will take over duties in center field. Marzilli, himself, is just coming off of the disabled list after he experienced some irregular heart rhythms last week.  Marzilli's return is a welcomed one given the recent depletion at all the outfield positions. His average has been climbing as of late - up to .260 - but is still nowhere near the .385 mark he put up in 91 at-bats in 2010. Ray Tanner fleshed out the outfield with former starter Steven Neff in left field and Jake Williams in right. The pair are hitting .118 and .287, respectively,  and neither has an on-base percentage over .351.

So how has Carolina continued to win games even in the midst of all these injuries? Well, for one thing, injuries to the pitching staff have been few and far between. Steven Neff is the only pitcher to go down during the season of note. Secondly, USC has been relatively lucky in that all the injuries have been to outfielders, a position not known for its fielding importance. As the the saying goes, defense wins championships, and Carolina has it in spades. USC is 3rd in ERA (2.58), 2nd in opposing BA (2.18), 2nd in batters struck out (354), 2nd in saves (15), 1st in fielding percentage (.977), last in errors (38), and 1st in fielding double plays (46). The other thing to remember is that Carolina's hitting statistics aren't really as bad as you might think. The Gamecocks are 4th in BA (.294), 4th in SLG% (.439), 2nd in OB% (.392), 4th in runs scored (278), tied for 1st in triples (12), 2nd in HRs (35) and 1st in walks (195). In virtually all the the other hitting categories USC ranks in the top half. The Gamecocks are taking care of busniess at the plate, if unconventionally so.

The team only has three players batting above .300 - Christian Walker (.373), Brady Thomas (.317), and Scott Wingo (.310) - but has but has four other players all hitting about .280. And, of course, the pitching has been spectacular. Michael Roth (9-1, 1.24 ERA) turned in 8 more great innings of work on Friday as Carolina beat Auburn 2-1. The Junior allowed just 1 earned run and 10 base runners in his outing. John Taylor (4-1, .82 ERA) earned the win after relieving Roth in the 9th. In the Saturday match Colby Holmes pitched a gem behind 10 runs from the USC offense. The 'Cocks won 10-2. Homes (4-1, 3.86 ERA) struck out 7 and gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks.Tyler Webb came on to finish out the game. In the Sunday game Carolina pounded out 12 hits on their way to 7-3 victory. Starter Forrest Koumas last just five innings, but still manaed to secure his 5th win of the season. Matt Price saw his only work of the weekend in the 8th and 9th innings. He allowed 1 hit, 2 walks and struck out 2 while earning his 13th save of the season.

This week the Gamecocks will battle finals exams before traveling to Spartanburg, SC to face the Wofford Terriers on Wednesday. Carolina won the earlier meeting this season in Columbia 8-4. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series 71-23-1.


Go 'Cocks!