It was a good week for the Gamecocks as they easily dispatched Appalachian State and then turned around and took care of Winthrop on quite a windy day. Last week I wrote about the Albany series and I was worried that I was overly optimistic about this team. I still can't say that I've seen anything that truly worries me. No, this team is not going 56-0. They are going to lose some games and, more than likely, eventually drop a series or two. But, this squad is blowing out bad teams (which is something good teams do) and making it look easy. With the Clemson series and the first true test of the year looming, let's look at what we can discern from last weekend against Penn State.
John Jones Is Taking No Prisoners: Mr. Jones had 14 plates appearances this past weekends. He proceeded to record no outs. He went 8-8, walked 6 times, hit two homeruns (one being of the grand variety), drove in 8 runs and finished with a 1.000 OBP for the weekend. That was good enough to earn him National Player of the Week honors. He is hitting .593/.694/.963 on the year with 3 homers and 19 RBI's. That's not a bad start to his Gamecock career. Obviously we can't realistically hope for these numbers to hold as we start facing better teams, but we will need him (and Chris Cullen) to continue to have great production from behind the plate if we want to contend for a SEC title and a bid to host a regional.
#DestinoAwakens: We've been waiting for the slugger to wake up at the plate. He started to show signs of life against Appalachian State and Winthrop, but he broke out against Penn State. On Saturday Destino slugged two homers (including one grand slam) and drove in 7 runs to lead the Gamecock offense to a 16-5 victory. He also hasn't looked too shabby over at first base so far this season. I don't think it can be understated how much of a loss it was to this team when Kyle Martin graduated. Not only was he a great power hitter, he also probably saved 15 or so more errors last year at first base from an already shoddy 2015 Gamecocks defense (the baseball version). Our defense needs to keep playing well and Destino needs to keep getting better and make the tough plays when they present themselves.
Tougher Competition: I'm not going to lie, I don't know much about Clemson baseball this year. I think they entered the season with a very similar situation as us: lots of question marks and not really knowing what to expect. I do know this: they will be, by far, the most talented team we have played so far this season and they will be well-coached. Monte Lee, formerly head coach at College of Charleston, is now the head man for the Tigers. It will be interesting how our young pitching staff holds up against some talented bats from Clemson. I expect us to win this series, but I think we will know so much more about this team and how good we actually are after the Reedy River Rivalry.
The Gamecocks travel to Charleston for one of those weird road games at The Citadel. Yes, it is weird and it should worry you. First pitch against the Bulldogs is Tuesday night at 7 PM. Oh, and beat Clemson.