South Carolina hits the road to take on Arkansas this weekend. Here's what you need to know.
Gametimes and TV: Friday's game will be at 8:00 EDT on ESPNU. Saturday's game will be televised on ESPN2 at 1:00 EDT. Sunday's game will be a radio affair at 2:05 EDT.
Is Arkansas any good? Yes, they're pretty good. They are only 11-10 in conference, but they are 33-13 overall. They took 2 out of 3 from Florida last weekend in Gainesville and beat Missouri twice this week. This game is also in Fayetteville. The Hogs were 24-7 at home last year, and are 26-4 at home this year.
Arkansas is led by its pitchers. I don't like the prospect of facing any of their starting pitchers. With apologies to Saturday starter Randall Fant, whom the Gamecocks shouldn't sleep on, Ryne Stanek, the Friday starter, and DJ Baxendale the Sunday starter are studs.
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Stanek is only a sophomore, but he is already pretty good. he will play for the Collegiate National team this summer. You remember the team Jackie Bradley, Jr., played for. Stanek was a pre-season 3rd team All American by Baseball America. He has a 6-3 record with a 2.52 ERA. He goes deep into games and hasn't given up a home run. He has stuck out 60 and walked only 21. It should be a dandy of a match up with Michael Roth.
Baxendale should be a familiar name to Gamecock fans. Last year he picked up a win against the Gamecocks in 6 innings of one run work. His ERA is up this year, but it's not terrible at 3.47. He is capable of taking over a game when he is pitching well. He has had a few short starts when he has gotten in trouble, so if USC can get the bats going, he is not invincible.
They can some hit, too. First baseman Dominic Ficocielli hit .571 against USC last season. He is batting .339 with a team leading 32 RBI this year. There is some power in the line up (Ficocielli is one with 4 home runs), and the leader is right fielder Same Bates. Bates has 6 HR and 25 RBI.
The left side of the infield has some hitters to beware of as well. Third baseman Matt Reynolds is hitting .312. He has driven in 29 and has stolen 11 bases. Coming into the series he has rerached base in 29 straight games. Short stop Tim Carver has stolen a team high 12 bases, but he has also been thrown out a team high 8 times. Expect him to move if he is on base, and expect him to get on base with a .322 average.
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Can USC beat these guys? Yes. Is it a given? No. Arkansas is a good team that is used to winning. They have some good hitting and some great pitching. The Gamecocks have continued to put the pieces together lately, and Reptar the fish will reportedly be making the trip. The Razorbacks have a great baseball venue, and it should be a great series. If USC can win 2 out of 3, it will probably be impressive enough to put them in position for a national seed.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.