Welp, that was a disappointing finish to the weekend. After such a hot start, the Gamecocks simply couldn't replicate their success from Friday night. There's a number of things to discuss from the past three games, so let's take a look.
Schmidt Happened: How about Clarke Schmidt Friday night, guys? He was just named SEC pitcher of the week and deservedly so. Friday night he threw 8 innings of shutout baseball with 9 strikeouts in the longest outing of his career. He has improved his record this season to 3-0 with a scintillating 0.43 ERA. He's struck out 23 batters to just 5 walks this season and has only allowed 1 run in 21 innings of work. That's some true ace material right there. He was shaky early on, but soon settled in and began mowing down the Clemson batters. Going forward I feel really comfortable with him taking the mound on Friday nights. Oh, and here's what's fun, he's only going to get better.
What happened to the bats? On Friday night we stroked out 12 hits and scored 8 runs. Alex Destino went 5-5 with 4 RBI to pace the offense and by the 5th inning we were rolling. The next two days combined we could only muster 9 hits (7 of those coming on Sunday) and also committed 2 errors. We wasted a golden opportunity Saturday during the top of the 6th to scratch our way back into the game. Down 4-0 we loaded the bases with only 1 out. After getting 2-0 counts in consecutive at-bats, both Alex Destino and Chris Cullen struck out. The crisis for Clemson was averted and they promptly popped Brandon Murray's first pitch the following half inning over the "Green(ville) Monster" and Clemson coasted to an easy 5-0 victory. What was the key to the game from Friday night other than (Clarke) Schmidt's pitching? We were putting leadoff runners on base, putting pressure on the Clemson defense, and bringing those guys around to score. I spoke highly of this team so far this season (while also warning that Clemson will be our first real test this year). I don't think losing this series is the end of the world. But these last two games reminded me way too much of last year's team which brings me to my next point...
Where is the Killer Instinct? You rout your rival on Friday night, at home, in front of a raucous crowd, and you follow it up with uninspired, flat performances the next two days. I just don't understand it. I would like to think that the performance Friday is the type that can propel you to another solid win Saturday afternoon. Instead we come out swinging at bad pitches, generally look unfocused in the field and all around just weren't ready to play. Scratching out 2 hits, with the talent in this lineup, is simply inexcusable. This is a long season and still a lot of time for this team to prove that they have what it takes. But Clemson was their first test of the year, and they largely failed it.
The Gamecocks take on the Terriers from Wofford at 7 PM on Tuesday night from Founders Park.