Both the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Florida Gators rely on their strong pitching and defense to largely shut opposing offenses down. The Gamecocks will be facing quite the challenge this weekend. Florida's team ERA is an elite 2.82, good for the top spot in the conference. The South Carolina staff isn't too shabby either as they have a team ERA of 3.21, good for fifth in the conference. Both pitching staffs boast a pair of starting pitchers with 8 wins a piece. Clarke Schmidt and Braden Webb lead the way for the Gamecocks as they sit at 8-1 and 8-2 on the year, respectively. The Florida staff is led by Logan Shore and Alex Faedo as they both have 8 wins on the year.
After looking at the starting pitching and overall stats for each respective pitching staff, we need to delve into the bullpens. While both teams have elite closers in Josh Reagan and Shaun Anderson respectively, the Gators hold the advantage when it comes to their setup men and middle relief. Kirby Snead looks to be the Gators main setup man, and he has a ridiculously low ERA of 0.93. The Gamecocks typically go to Tyler Johnson or Reed Scott out of the bullpen. And, while they have been good, they have still gotten hit hard a few times. So, while Josh Reagan leads the SEC in saves with 11, I think the overall depth of arms in the Gator bullpen pushes them over the top. This gives them the slight edge, in my opinion.
Advantage: Florida (but just barely)
The area where the Gamecocks and the Gators are completely even is in the field with Florida ranked #1 in the SEC in fielding percentage with the Gamecocks right on their tails at #2 in the conference.
The Gamecocks may be the most improved team in the conference defensively. The 2015 version of the Yardcocks was sometimes hard to watch defensively. However, the 2016 squad has gotten back to playing excellent defensive baseball. The slick shortstop/2nd base combo of Marcus Mooney and DC Arendas their fair share of double plays this season while the outfield, led by Dom Thompson-Williams and Gene Cone, have been stellar. The Gators have also been good at controlling the basepaths as their catchers have thrown out 29-49 steal attempts.
While Florida may have a miniscule advantage on the mound, the Gamecocks and the Gators are toe-to-toe in terms of defense. I think this weekend has all the makings of a legendary series. We will have more to come as we break down both teams' offenses.