Well, we couldn't have asked for a better start to this young college baseball season. The South Carolina Gamecocks easily took care of their opening foe by a combined score of 24-4 in the three game sweep. This Gamecock team looks more athletic than last year, seems to have a bit more balanced lineup, and appears to have improved overall pitching.
The New Guys: John Jones, Dom Thompson-Williams, and Jonah Bride (all new guys) combined to bat right around .445 on the weekend and also drove in 14 runs. If we are going to have a successful season we need contributions from lots of new faces this year. And while McIlwain had a mildly disappointing start to the year (0-3 at the plate) I think he will come around as he continues to acclimate himself to college and college level pitching. On Dom Thompson-Williams (we'll call him DTW) specifically, I think he brings a level of overall strength and athleticism in the Gamecock outfield that we have been missing since perhaps Jackie Bradley Jr. left for pro baseball. Obviously I'm not saying that DTW will replicate what Bradley was able to do here (it would be nice though, wouldn't it?), but I do feel he has the ability to play all three outfield spots and the skill to bat anywhere from 1-5 in the batting order. It's going to fun watching him continue to develop as the year goes on.
Flashing the Leather: The Gamecocks committed two errors in 27 innings of defensive baseball this weekend. I can remember individual games last season where Carolina would commit 2 or more errors. Obviously this accomplishment will get more challenging as the competition grows stiffer, but it is still a promising sign. Last season we always seemed to be a step too slow on defense. We had trouble getting to 50/50 balls and the throws across the diamond were often late (either due to weak arms or the ball not being fielded cleanly). I saw improved athleticism across the board this weekend. This should pay huge dividends for us in the meat of our schedule against our conference opponents.
Pitching: 4 runs in 3 games. Not only is that a testament to our defense but also our overall pitching. It just looks better this year. Albany had trouble making solid contact throughout the weekend and our pitchers were thoroughly dominant over a team that they should control pretty easily.
I hope I didn't sound like too much of an optimist, I just saw a lot of things last weekend that I liked. Now, obviously, we will learn more about this team as the year goes on and as the competition gets tougher. I don't think Albany is a very good team. However, the Gamecocks handled them like a good team should. This is a series that could have been more interesting than it should be with last years' team. The Gamecocks take on Appalachian State Tuesday at home at 4 PM (barring any rain delays) at Founders Park.