The South Carolina Gamecocks return to the diamond after a pair of interesting midweek blowouts that saw them play the roles of both aggressor and victim (The Citadel and Gardner-Webb, respectively). Of course, the Gamecocks are also coming off a big series win against rival Clemson, and enter this weekend against Valparaiso looking for a final tune-up before conference play cranks up.
The Crusaders (2-7) hail from the Missouri Valley Conference and have faced South Carolina on two previous occasions, both in 2010. Valpo has had a wild week of its own, coming from behind to take a series from UNC Wilmington thanks to an eighth-inning grand slam, but then falling to N.C. A&T in midweek action.
The biggest question for USC is its starting pitching rotation, which has been shaken up by injury. Friday starter Carmen Mlodzinski fractured his foot against Clemson and is likely out for a month, so freshman right-hander Wesley Sweatt, who capably relieved Mlodzinski against the Tigers, will get the nod in his place. Sweatt is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in 6.2 innings pitched with eight strikeouts and no walks.
Carolina will send junior righty Reid Morgan, its usual Sunday starter, to the mound on Saturday instead, with Game 3’s pitcher yet to be determined. Morgan is 2-0 with an 1.74 ERA over 20.2 innings pitched and sports 17 strikeouts against no walks. This leaves freshman southpaw Dylan Harley, the typical Saturday starter, as the odd man out — though Harley has been struggling to make it past more than the first two or three innings.
Valpo will counter with senior right-hander Michael Kornacker (0-1, 6.08 ERA, 15 BB, 11 SO), junior righty Jon Tieman (1-1, 6.32 ERA, 10 BB, 17 SO), and freshman right-hander Colin Fields (0-1, 6.14 ERA, 11 BB, 8 SO).
The Gamecocks are currently ranked 20th in Baseball America’s poll and 24th by D1 Baseball.
Game 1: Friday, 4 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
Watch: All three games are available on SEC Network Plus.
Listen: 107.5 The Game