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South Carolina vs. No. 5 Vanderbilt: Series Preview, Game Times, How to Watch and more

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The Commodores visit Carolina Stadium for a Thursday-Saturday series

TheBigSpur

The Gamecocks are in a pretty bad place right now after getting whipped by Florida over the weekend and then losing to PC in extras Tuesday night to fall to 23-15 (6-9). To make matters worse, the team was dealt a blow on Tuesday with the news that sophomore RHP Wil Crowe will miss the remainder of the season with an elbow injury. South Carolina will have to try to rebound from a week of bad baseball and bad news against the defending national champions as a top-five Vanderbilt team comes to town.

South Carolina has historically had a lot of success against Vandy and is 51-27 against the Commodores overall. The Gamecocks are 4-6 versus the Commodores over the last three season and beat last year's national championship team in Nashville.

SEC East SEC West
Vanderbilt (11-4) Texas A&M (11-3)
Missouri (10-5) LSU (10-5)
Florida (9-6) Arkansas (7-8)
Georgia (6-9) Ole Miss (7-8)
South Carolina (6-9) Alabama (6-9)
Kentucky (5-9) Mississippi State (6-9)
Tennessee (5-10) Auburn (5-10)

Holbrook said earlier this week that the goal is to go 9-6 in the second half of SEC play. If the Gamecocks manage that, they will finish with a conference record of .500. As difficult as it is to say it, that's probably the best-case scenario right now. The remaining series on the schedule are vs #5 Vandy, at Tennessee, vs Auburn, at #1 Texas A&M, and vs #2 LSU. The South Carolina team that went 3-9 over the past four weeks of SEC play will get slaughtered by that stretch of games. Even a South Carolina team that suddenly figures things out and quickly improves will have a difficult time getting to 9-6 in the second half of conference play. Holbrook said on Wednesday that he believes the Gamecocks will play their best baseball to close out the season and that's exactly what they'll need to do to get wins against the tough opponents left on the schedule.

Vanderbilt enters this weekend's series 28-10 (11-4) and ranked 21st in the NCAA RPI. The Commodores beat Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee, and Georgia in the first four weeks of conference play. However they've lost four of their last five games after dropping midweek contests to Lipscomb and Belmont and losing a series to Ole Miss last weekend. Prior to their current three-game losing streak, Vandy had not lost three straight games since March of 2012.

South Carolina Vanderbilt
Batting Average .262 .300
On-Base % .357 .394
Slugging % .376 .449
ERA 3.80 3.01
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio 2.14 2.07
Fielding % .970 .974

Kyle Martin and Elliott Caldwell remain the consistent bright spots in the struggling USC lineup. Martin leads the SEC in batting average in conference games at .456 and Elliott Caldwell is 6th overall at .377. Like Martin and Caldwell, both Schrock and Gore are hitting better in conference play than they are for the season as a whole. But overall the Gamecocks are hitting only .258 in conference play, which is 10th in the league. With a .256 average, the Commodores are hitting only slightly better in SEC play. Pitching is another story entirely and will likely be the difference-maker in this series. While Vandy has a 3.29 ERA in SEC play (2nd in the league), the Gamecocks have a 5.63 ERA in conference games (13th in the league).

In addition to the big injury to Crowe, the Gamecocks have a couple of other issues that may impact the lineup. Shortstop Marcus Mooney and catcher Hunter Taylor have both been dealing with hamstring injuries, but Holbrook hopes both will be able to play this weekend and expects to Mooney to play on Thursday.

Obviously, the loss of Wil Crowe is a big blow to the weekend pitching rotation. Taking his place as the first pitcher in the rotation for the Vandy series is Vince Fiori. The junior lefty has a 2.45 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 14 walks. This will be his first start for the Gamecocks but he has done well in relief this season and was a starter in the Cape Cod League over the summer. Junior LHP Jack Wynkoop will start on Friday. He will be the first starter in the rotation for the remainder of the season, but the Thursday start to the Vandy series prevents him from taking the mound first this weekend. Wynkoop's ERA is 3.20 and he has 47 strikeouts and 9 walks this season. As usual, the third starter is TBA. Holbrook said that the Gamecocks will use whatever pitchers they have to if they're in a position to win Thursday and Friday and determine who has the freshest available arm on Saturday.

Vanderbilt's Thursday night starter will be Carson Fulmer. The junior right-hander has a 1.89 ERA and his 81 strikeouts lead the SEC by a large margin. On Friday another junior RHP, Walker Buehler, will take the mound for the Commodores. Buehler has a 2.41 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 9 walks this season. The Commodores have not announced a Saturday starter yet.

Game 1, Thursday

Start Time: 7:30 pm

How to Watch: ESPNU

How to Listen: 107. 5 The Game and Gamecock Radio Network affiliates

Game 2, Friday

Start Time: 7 pm

How to Watch: SEC Network

How to Listen: 107. 5 The Game and Gamecock Radio Network affiliates

Game 3, Saturday

Start Time: 1 pm

How to Watch: ESPN2

How to Listen: 107. 5 The Game and Gamecock Radio Network affiliates