South Carolina hosts Alabama this weekend. The series begins at 7:30 on Thursday night on ESPNU.
Alabama isn't having the kind of season they would like. They are 17-25 overall and 6-12 in the SEC. They did, however, just take 2 of 3 games from Vanderbilt and almost swept the series dropping only a two run game on Sunday.
Pitching…The Crimson Tide will send freshmen to the mound all weekend. Right handed Spencer Turnbull has a 2-3 record with a 5.45 ERA and will start Thursday. He has been used both as a starter and out of the bullpen. He strikes out about one an inning and walks one every other inning. Another freshman, lefty Taylor Guilbeau will probably start Friday night's game. His ERA is a stout 4.80. He doesn't strike out as may as Turnbull and he walks as many as he strikes out, so Gamecock batters should be patient with him. The third starter is a lot like Guilbeau. He is Justin Kamplain. Kamplain is a lefty with relatively few strike outs and plenty of walks. If the Gamecocks get to the pitchers, there is an unsteady bullpen behind them. Though they have pitched well at times, they have a season ERA of 5.89.
Batting...If the Tide is going to win some games this weekend they will have to have some strong offensive support. Centerfielder Taylor Dugas will probably be one of the first places they'll look. The senior is batting .335 and has only struck out 18 times. For comparison, he has been walked 19 times and hit 17. He doesn't have a lot of power, but he is also a stalwart defensive presence in centerfield.
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A few others to be aware of are Ben Moore, Jared Reeves and Brett Booth. Reaves, the senior shortstop, is batting .317 with 4 home runs and 27 batted in. Moore, a freshman who plays outfield and can also play catcher, leads the team with a .368 average. He has also driven in 25. Booth is only batting .222, but he leads the team in RBIs with 28 and is tied for the team lead in home runs with 4.
South Carolina is a better team on paper, and they are hot right now. They've had the week off, so everyone should be ready to go. This is by far the easiest of the 4 remaining conference series. If the team is harboring dreams of a top 8 national seed, then 2 out of 3 is a must. A sweep would help even more. It all starts Thursday night with Michael Roth on the mound.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.