One of the most anticipated weekends of the college baseball season in South Carolina has finally arrived and the Gamecocks and the Tigers are prepared to face off in their annual rivalry series. The Carolina-Clemson rivalry is one of the best in college baseball and Coach Holbrook said in his Thursday press conference that "it's an honor and a privilege to be involved in a college baseball rivalry like this one."
There has been no shortage of drama and intensity in the rivalry over the past few seasons, despite the lopsided record between the teams. While the Tigers lead the overall series with the Gamecocks 170-134-2, South Carolina has absolutely dominated the past five years. The Gamecocks are 14-5 against the Tigers during that time, including a perfect 4-0 record in the postseason. Clemson hasn't won the regular season series against the Gamecocks since 2010 and the Gamecocks swept the Tigers last year.
The Gamecocks dropped their season opener against College of Charleston but have won every game since then and enter rivalry weekend on a winning streak of six games. Clemson also lost their season opener, but they were unable to bounce back and dropped another game to give West Virginia a victory in the series. Despite the unimpressive start to the season, the Tigers enter rivalry weekend on a winning streak as well after sweeping Maine and beating Wofford.
|Opposing Batting Average||.255||.202|
After hitting an uninspiring .138 in the season opener, the Gamecocks appear to have solved their offensive woes. They've improved their batting average each game and have several players that are having great seasons at the plate so far. Elliott Caldwell is still leading the Gamecocks in most offensive categories with a batting average of .467, a slugging percentage of .733 and an OBP of .529. Destino, Cone and Mooney are all batting .400 or above as well. Several players with lower averages, most notably Max Schrock, have done a good job of getting on base and as a team the Gamecocks have drawn walks (31) nearly as many times as they've struck out (33).
Up against that improving Gamecock offense will be Clemson's pitching, which has been great so far this year. Clemson's 1.72 ERA is good for 13th in the country and their 4.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio is 7th in the country. The Clemson pitchers will likely present quite a challenge to the Gamecocks and Holbrook acknowledged that it would be "a struggle to score [Friday] and Saturday" and that Carolina will need to play their best to take advantage of scoring opportunities and win.
Holbrook is switching up the pitching rotation that the Gamecocks used the first two weekends of the season. Sophomore right-hander Wil Crowe will get the Friday night start in Clemson. Crowe has a 0.87 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 3 walks in his 10 innings pitched this season. Jack Wynkoop, the junior lefty that started Game 1 in the first two weeks of the season, will take the mound on Saturday for the Gamecocks. His ERA is 3.46 with 11 strikeouts and 2 walks. Holbrook has expressed confidence in both Crowe and Wynkoop and sees them both as capable Friday night starters, but felt that Crowe was the right pitcher to start on Friday this week. The Sunday starter for the Gamecocks is TBA because Holbrook wants everyone available in the bullpen for the first two games.
On Friday night Matthew Crownover, a junior lefty, will get the start for the Tigers. Crownover has not allowed an earned run yet in his 13 innings this season. He has struck out 15 batters while not walking any. Another junior lefthander, Zack Erwin, will take the mound on Saturday. His ERA is 0.66 and he has 10 strikeouts and 1 walk. The Sunday starter for Clemson will be Brody Koerner, a junior right-hander. His ERA is 2.25 with 11 strikeouts and 2 walks.
Game 1, Friday
Start Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Doug Kingsmore Stadium (Clemson, SC)
How to Watch: ESPN3
Game 2, Saturday
Start Time: 2:30 pm
Location: Fluor Field (Greenville, SC)
How to Watch: Live stream at GreenvilleDrive.com
Game 3, Sunday
Start Time: 12 pm
Location: Carolina Stadium (Columbia, SC)
How to Watch: SEC Network
All 3 games can be heard on 107.5 The Game and Gamecock Radio Network Affiliates