Time for a key weekend series for the South Carolina baseball team as they are set to square off against the Auburn Tigers.
South Carolina followed up a mid-week loss last week with a weekend sweep of Mississippi State. This weekend they'll try to replicate that effort after another mid-week loss.
South Carolina travels to Auburn to play a school they have beaten every year since 1997.
Auburn is 21-16 (7-8). They may have lost their last weekend series against Vanderbilt, but they have series wins over LSU and Ole Miss, so they're capable of beating good teams.
Auburn will throw Derek Varnadore on Friday night. He's their regular Friday night starter and usually lasts through atleast six innings. Saturday's regular starter, Will Kendall, was injured two weeks ago and is lost for the season. He was replaced by Jon Luke Jacobs last weekend. Jacobs has faced USC 4 times and has a 3.43 ERA against them. Sunday's starter will almost certainly be Daniel Koger. Koger and reliever Corey Luckie are the only lefties on the pitching staff. In SEC play the staff has an ERA of 3.65. They have some good numbers in conference, but none of them have been dominant, strike out pitchers.
As usual, the Tigers excel at hitting. Lead off batter Jay Gonzalez has stolen 19 bases in 22 attempts and is batting just under .300. Veteran Creede Simpson will probably bat second. Simpson is batting .329 with 22 RBIs on the season but no home runs. Ryan Tella, the team's leading batter, hits third. He is batting .394 with 3 home runs and 23 RBIs.
The rest of the line up has impressive averages as well. Dan Glevenyak is batting .344. Cullen Wacker is batting .338, and Garrett Cooper is hitting .333. The Tigers aren't a power hitting club; no batter has more than 3 home runs. They will try to run though. They've stolen 72 bases as a team as opposed to 29 by their opposition.
South Carolina has gotten themselves on the cusp of being back in the SEC East race. A series win this weekend with a little help will put them in the thick of it. Auburn's pitching should allow the offense to put some runs on the board, but Auburn's bat will test the Gamecocks. Expect USC to take two out of three.Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.