South Carolina is now 25-3 (6-3) and enters the series against Arkansas on a seven game win streak, with walk-off wins in three of the last four games. The Gamecocks are still ranked in the top five of every major poll. Arkansas is at 18-11 (4-5) and is unranked. Arkansas leads the overall series between the two teams 35-28. The Razorbacks swept the Gamecocks in Columbia last year, but the Gamecocks have won the last two series played in Fayetteville as well as two of the three games played in Omaha during the 2012 CWS.
The SEC standings have been sorted out a little more after another weekend of conference play, but both division races are still pretty tangled up. South Carolina is still tied for first in the East division standings, but now only shares that spot with one other team: the Florida Gators. The two leaders are followed by Vanderbilt (5-4), Kentucky (4-5), and Georgia (3-5), with Tennessee and Missouri (3-6) tied in last place. The Western division is led by Alabama and Mississippi State, both with a 6-3 record, followed by Auburn (5-4), then a tie between Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M (4-5), with LSU (3-5) in last place. Through three weeks of SEC play the ridiculous parity of the conference has continued and most of the teams in the SEC appear to have a legitimate shot at making it to the postseason.
The Razorbacks enter this weekend's series coming off of a Tuesday night win and a Wednesday night loss to Nebraska. Arkansas began the season by sweeping Appalachian State and Eastern Illinois, but then lost 2 of 3 to South Alabama. The Razorback dropped out of the edge of the top 25 after losing two games to California. They began conference play with a series loss to Florida, then won the series against Alabama, then lost the series at Mississippi State last weekend. Despite Arkansas's struggles, they're still a dangerous team, especially on the mound. Coach Holbrook said Wednesday night that the Gamecocks will see some of the best pitching they've seen all year this weekend and that the team will need a better offensive approach to have success against Arkansas. The Razorbacks came into the week ranked in the top ten nationally in ERA.
Arkansas currently has an ERA of 2.35 and opponents are hitting only .209 against them. They've thrown six shutouts this year, which is in also in the top ten nationally. The Razorbacks have struggled some offensively, and are hitting .261 as a team, with only two players hitting over .300. Their on-base percentage is .362 and their slugging percentage is .345.
The Gamecocks have an ERA of 1.69 and opponents are hitting .205 against them. The Gamecocks had the 4th best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the country entering the week, and improved it slightly to 3.66 against Appalachian State. Offensively, the Gamecocks could use some improvement, but they have not been bad and they have definitely benefited from some very timely hitting this season. In fact, the Gamecocks have won half of the games in which they've entered the 9th inning trailing and both in which they entered the 9th inning tied. They've scored a total of 22 runs in the 9th inning this year, which is more than in any other inning except the 5th and the 6th. That's particularly impressive considering the fact that they haven't even batted in the 9th inning in many of their games because they were at home and already leading. The Gamecocks are hitting .301 with an on-base percentage of .375 and a slugging percentage of .416.
Jordan Montgomery had his best start against a ranked opponent of the season last Friday night, throwing seven innings while only allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits, walking two and striking out six. This performance was much-appreciated by the fans Friday night and hopefully signals a permanent return to form by the junior left-hander. The Gamecocks will need strong starts from Montgomery as they go deeper into conference play and face quality teams every weekend. Montgomery's ERA is currently 4.30 with 38 strikeouts and 14 walks. He will start Thursday night opposite Arkansas's sophomore right-hander Trey Killian. Killian has a 2.78 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 4 walks.
On Friday night sophomore left-hander Jack Wynkoop will start for the Gamecocks. Wynkoop has an ERA of 2.66 with 37 strikeouts and only 5 walks. Arkansas will send junior left-hander Jalen Beeks to the mound Friday; his ERA is 1.27 with 31 strikeouts and 12 walks. Saturday's Gamecock starter will be Wil Crowe. The freshman right-hander has an ERA of 1.37 with 28 strikeouts and 6 walks. He continued to impress this past weekend as he pitched 7.1 shutout innings against Tennessee. The Razorbacks will start junior right-hander Chris Oliver. Oliver's ERA is 2.41 with 25 strikeouts and 9 walks.
The Gamecocks are in pretty good shape health wise. Grayson Greiner still has a sore thumb and actually wore a cast on it earlier in the week. Despite that, he seems to be doing just fine and should play this weekend. Max Schrock's ankle has continued to improve and as he was back at second base on Tuesday, he will likely be on the field this weekend as well.
Game 1, Thursday Start time: 8 p.m. Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas (Baum Stadium) TV: ESPNU
UPDATE: Due to threatening weather, there will be a doubleheader on Friday beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET
Game 2, Friday
Start time: 7:35 p.m
Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas (Baum Stadium)
Game 3, Saturday
Start time: 7 p.m.
Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas (Baum Stadium)
TV: Cox Sports Television
All three games can be heard live on 107.5 The Game