Sports

2012 College Baseball Preview: South Carolina vs. LSU

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that LSU comes to town tonight for a three game set.

What's on the line?  The winner of the game will be all but a lock for a National Seed.  The winner might also be the SEC regular season champion depending on other games.  The loser will have to have some help and a great run in the SEC tourney to get a national seed.

How are we looking?  The Gamecocks have been winning lots of SEC baseball games lately.  In fact, they are 14-2 in their last 16 games, and 8-0 at home during that span.  Colby Holmes is returning from his injury and should be available.  Since most of the mid week game was rained out, the entire bull pen should be ready to go.

LSU pitching.  It's good.  The Tigers have an ERA of 3.26 as a team, and opponents are only batting .244 against them.  (Cf. South Carolina's ERA 3.18, Opp. BA /223)  Their Friday night starter, Kevin Gausman, is 8-1 on the year with a 2.95 ERA.  He has struck out 112 in 91 innings and walked only 21.  Roth will need to have a good night to keep pace with him (which Roth is certainly capable of).

The Saturday starter (Friday for this series) is Aaron Nola.  Nola is 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA.  He has only walked 6, six!, runners in 67 innings pitched.  The third starter is Ryan Eades.  Eades is 5-2 with a 3.75 ERA.  He doesn't strike out nearly as many batters as his battery mates do, and he has given up some hits en route to a .283 opponents' batting average.

So we need to get into their bullpen then?  If we can do it early, it means fewer innings of the above three, but there are some strong arms out there.  Their closer is Nick Goody, who may be just as good as Matt Price.  Goody has a 1.32 ERA and leads the team in appearances with 28.  He has struck out 37 and walked only 3.  The rest of the pen is strong as well.  There are 7 pitchers, Goody included, who have sub-4 ERAs and more than 25 innings pitched.  Chris Cotton and Joey Bourgeois are two of the best they have, and they have some good ones.

...and their hitting?  The Gamecocks have faced better hitting teams this year, but they haven't faced anyone with the stats to match outfielder Raph Rhymes (pronounced Ray-f).  After spending most of the season at or above .500, Raymes is hitting .476.  He is leading the team in RBIs with 47.

The rest of the club hits alright, but nothing in Rhymes's league.  Mason Katz (1B, RF) is hitting .330 and leads the team with 9 home runs and 36 strike outs.  Ty Ross (C) is batting .305.  The Tigers don't run all the time, but they do run more than USC.  If someone is moving it will probably be Katz or JaCoby Jones (2B).

The upshot?  LSU is a good team and very deserving of a national seed, but South Carolina is a good team as well, and they are playing at home.  Nothing will come easy, but there is no reason to believe this weekend won't be a great series with these two teams.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.