Head coach Mark Kingston is still new at South Carolina, but one thing he’s already learned is that Carolina-Clemson is a very big deal. He referred to it this week as “the greatest rivalry in college baseball” and praised the series unique format. Kingston knows how important this series is to both the fans and the players and how much emotion will be involved as South Carolina fights to come out of this weekend with a rivalry win.
A South Carolina series win feels especially important this season both in the context of the season itself and in the overall rivalry series. The team is coming into the series with a 6-3 record and needs to bounce back from their second loss in a row, which came in a very sloppy game against Furman on Tuesday. In the larger context of the rivalry, Carolina is also in the middle of a losing streak that needs to be corrected. The Gamecocks had a streak of dominance over Clemson from 2010 to 2014 that included eliminating the Tigers from the postseason twice, but the balance of the rivalry has shifted since then with Carolina losses in each of the last three seasons. Last year’s series loss was particularly demoralizing (and an unfortunate preview of the season ahead), as the Gamecocks stole a win in Clemson in the series opener, then blew leads in each of the next two games to give away the series.
Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Clemson has had a hot start to the season, including a couple of comeback wins to remain undefeated. Their 8-0 record includes a sweep of a ranked Dallas Baptist team last weekend. The Tiger offense is led by Robert Jolly (.440/.563/.560) and Chris Williams (.387/.432/.806). Williams has three homers for the Tigers, right behind Drew Wharton who leads the team with four. The Gamecocks will also have to watch out for Seth Beer, who is hitting .259 with a couple of homers and was a major factor in the rivalry series last season.
USC vs Clemson Stats
Adam Hill (5.73 ERA, 20 SO, 3 BB) will be the starter Friday and the Gamecocks will be hoping for more of the kind of dominance he showed last week against Charleston Southern. The junior RHP earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors for his performance (7 IP, 14 K, 0 R, 0 BB), which was among the best in Founders Park history. The Tigers will send sophomore LHP Jacob Hennessy (2.45 ERA, 14 S0, 2 BB) to the mound.
On Saturday sophomore RHP Cody Morris (3.38 ERA, 9 SO, 3 BB) will get the start for Carolina. Clemson will start junior RHP Brooks Crawford (2.00 ERA, 9 SO, 0 BB).
The Gamecocks have not announced a Sunday starter. Ridge Chapman, who started the first two Sunday games of the season, is still a possibility to pitch, as is John Gilreath. Kingston said that he wanted to maintain flexibility with the pitching options and that the Sunday starter will depend on how the pitching staff is used in the first two games. Clemson will start sophomore LHP Jake Higginbotham (0.73 ERA, 10 SO, 0 BB) in the series finale.
Game 1: Friday, 7 p.m. (Columbia, SC)
Game 2: Saturday, 3 p.m. (Greenville, SC)
Game 3: Sunday, 2 p.m. (Clemson, SC)
Watch: Friday’s game will be available via SEC Network Plus. Sunday’s game will be streamed on the ACC Network Extra.
Listen: 107.5 The Game