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Weekend preview: Gamecocks travel to Oxford, Mississippi

John Taylor leads the SEC in ERA (.82), opposing BA (.158), appearances (28),  fewest runs allowed, and has not given up a home run yet. He's having an MVP-type season.
John Taylor leads the SEC in ERA (.82), opposing BA (.158), appearances (28), fewest runs allowed, and has not given up a home run yet. He's having an MVP-type season.

This week the South Carolina Gamecocks (35-8, 17-4 SEC) completed their two-game season series with the Wofford Terriers (19-26, 6-15 SoCon). The Gamecocks pounded out 14 hits on their way to a 9-3 victory. Adam Westmoreland (2-1, 5.45 ERA) got the win for the 'Cocks after pitching 5.1 innings and allowing 6 hits. He struck out 5 and walked 4. Steven Neff, Jose Mata, and Bryan Harper combined to allow just one hit the rest of the game. It's worth noting that the starting outfield was Jake Williams, Evan Marzilli, and Robert Beary from left to right. Steven Neff filled in as the DH. Evan Marzilli, who underwent a heart procedure on Monday, had a 3-3 night. Hopefully, USC will break the streak and not suffer any more injuries this weekend.

Coach Tanner & Co. will travel to Oxford, Mississippi to do battle with the Rebels (24-20, 9-12 SEC) on Friday. Ole Miss has had a less than thrilling season so far, but, sitting at 9-12 in the SEC, they will be looking to possibly sneak into the SEC tournament if they can go on a run at the end the season. The prospects for them aren't great, though. The Rebels' only SEC series wins came against squads from the East -- a 2-1 decision at Tennessee and a sweep at home versus Kentucky.

The Rebels rank 9th in the SEC in batting average (.279), 10th in OB% (.355), 9th in runs scored (238). For comparison, the Gamecocks rank 4th (.294), 2nd (.392), and 4th (278) in those categories. The Ole Miss pitching has fared a little better with marks of 7th in ERA (4.18), 8th in opposing BA (.275), and 8th in batters struck out (320). South Carolina ranks 3rd (2.58), 2nd (.218), and 2nd (354) in those same categories.The Rebels are led by Sophomore Tanner Mathis, who is hitting .343 with 0 home runs and and an OB% of .397. Another sophomore, Alex Yarbough, is probably the biggest threat of the bunch. He's hitting .333 with 5 home runs and a .527 SLG%. Carolina will get the Rebel ace on Friday, junior Matt Crouse. Crouse carries a 6-3 record with a 3.41 ERA in 11 games started. He's given up 7 home runs already this year.

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have not missed a beat despite of the merry-go-round that has been the USC outfield. Their success has been, in no small part, due to Christian Walker's monster year. Walker is hitting .386 with a .637 SLG%, and 9 home runs.  That places him 4th in the SEC in the first two categories and tied for second in the third category. Brady Thomas (.326) and Scott Wingo (.317) round out the top Gamecock hitters, though Evan Marzilli (.278) has been on the rise as of late. John Taylor (.82) and Michael Roth (1.24) continue to lead the league in ERA and are 1st (.158) and 3rd (.206) in opposing batting average, respectively.

Certainly, this is a series that the Gamecocks should expect to win - or even sweep. USC is currently 5th in the NCAA RPI whereas Ole Miss comes in at 41. The Gamecocks have been able to handle their opponents so far on the weekends, and I don't see a reason this weekend should be any different.Ole Miss' best chance to steal a win might actually be on Friday with their ace on the mound. Michael Roth will be looking to become the SEC's first 10-game winner of the season, but the Gamecocks have shown that they will struggle if they don't score early. I'm not betting against Roth, though. He seems to be on a role this season. The junior celebrated a "perfect sitter" on Twitter Wednesday night after the Wofford victory, saying:

"Perfect sitter tonight against wofford. A perfect stander and a perfect sitter in one season. Hell of a year so far!!!"

For those of you (like me) who don't know what a perfect sitter is, it is when a player sits in the same spot for a whole game. USC is 20-1 when leading after the first 3 innings and have never lost a game in which they have scored 6 or more runs. Mississippi's record may not be impressive, but at 9-12 they are only one game out of being tied for 1st in the SEC West. And "Yes," that does mean that no SEC West team has a winning record in conference play right now. Florida plays at Alabama this weekend while Vanderbilt travels to Kentucky, so there is a chance the Gamecocks will be able to pick a game or even two if they get the sweep. USC leads the all-time series with the Rebels 29-18.

Go 'Cocks!