A rough season for South Carolina continued to get worse last week. In addition to yet another gut-wrenching series loss last weekend at Florida, the Gamecocks lost ace pitcher Clarke Schmidt for the season. The loss of Schmidt is a huge blow for a team that is talented but struggling terribly right now. The Gamecocks have a 24-15 (9-9 SEC) record heading into the Kentucky series.
Kentucky is holding steady at their top spot in the SEC East and now has a two-game lead over Florida, who they play on the last weekend of the season. South Carolina is tied with Vandy for third in the East, which puts them in the bottom half of the SEC overall, as Alabama is the only team in the West that’s below .500 in conference play. In fact 10 of the 14 SEC teams are .500 or better in conference play and the 9-9 teams are just four games back from 13-5 Mississippi State. That means that with four weekends of SEC play left most teams still have a chance to make a run at the regular season title or a top four seed in the SEC Tournament.
|SEC East||SEC West|
|SEC East||SEC West|
|Kentucky (12-6, .667)||Mississippi State (13-5, .722)|
|Florida (10-8, .556)||Arkansas (12-6, .667)|
|South Carolina (9-9, .500)||Auburn (12-6, .667)|
|Vanderbilt (9-9, .500)||Texas A&M (10-8, .556)|
|Missouri (8-10, .444)||LSU (10-8, .556)|
|Tennessee (5-13, .278)||Ole Miss (9-9, .500)|
|Georgia (5-13, .278)||Alabama (2-16, .111)|
Kentucky is 29-13 (12-6 SEC) and is the surprise team of the East this season. The Wildcats got off to a rocky start to the season when they were swept at North Carolina and dropped a couple of other early games. But they swept Texas A&M to open SEC play, then took series from Ole Miss, Vandy, Missouri and LSU. Their only SEC series loss is at Mississippi State.
The Wildcats have a dangerous offense and are the only team in the SEC hitting over .300. They get a lot of men on base, as they draw more walks than nearly every other SEC team and get hit by pitches more frequently than any other SEC team (71 HBP this season, while only two other SEC teams are above 50). Kentucky is also good at avoiding strikeouts, though South Carolina is as well. The Gamecock pitching staff will have to step up this weekend, particularly in Schmidt’s absence, to hold the Wildcats in check. The Kentucky pitching staff is quite good too, so the Gamecocks will need a strong performance from the offense if they want a shot at winning the series and turning the season around.
USC vs Kentucky Stats
Wil Crowe (3.25 ERA, 59 SO, 19 BB) will start for the Gamecocks on Friday. The junior RHP is moving up to fill Schmidt’s usual spot and will aim for another strong start to build on last weekend’s performance against Florida. Kentucky will start sophomore RHP Sean Hjelle (4.02 ERA, 57 SO, 16 BB).
The Gamecocks will send sophomore RHP Adam Hill (2.36 ERA, 57 SO, 25 BB) to the mound on Saturday. Junior LHP Zach Logue (4.20 ERA, 55 SO, 13 BB) will start for the Wildcats.
Carolina has not named a Sunday starter and Holbrook said it will depend on how the bullpen gets used in the first couple of games in the series. Kentucky will start sophomore RHP Justin Lewis (2.82 ERA, 45 SO, 14 BB) in the series finale.
Game 1: Friday, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
Watch: All three games will be available online via SEC Network Plus
Listen: All three games will be on the radio on 107.5 The Game & The Gamecock Radio Network