Last year Vanderbilt finished in a three way tie atop the SEC with Florida and South Carolina. Not surprisingly Vanderbilt went on to be one of the last 4 teams playing in Omaha. The expectations were the success would continue this year. That hasn't quite happened.
Vanderbilt opened the season away against a very good Stanford team. They were swept. They then were swept by Oregon at home, which raised some eyebrows, and they followed that up with a loss to Louisiana Tech. After sweeping Rhode Island, they've lost a game to Belmont, a series to San Diego and a game to Evansville. They were swept in Gainesville, but managed to win two of three from Georgia in Nashville last weekend. Coming into the game they are 2-4 in conference and 10-15 overall.
Pitching...Vanderbilt pitching has been ... unpredictable. Losing starters Grayson Garvin and Sonny Gray has been (understandably) difficult. The most consistent pitcher has been Friday night starter, Kevin Ziomek. The sophomore left hander has a 2-3 record with a 3.82 ERA. The other starters are up in the air. Some could start, some will come out of the bullpen. I would expect to see: Tyler Beede (6.46 ERA, 0-3), Drew VerHagen (3.41, 3-2), Will Clinard (3.80, 2-1), Brian Miller (4.84, 0-2) and Jared Miller (3.18, 1-0). Of note, Vanderbilt has only saved one game all year.
Batting...Despite losing some firepower there are still several names Gamecocks will be familiar with. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski is batting .338 with 3 HR and 16 RBIs. Shortstop Anthony Gomez is right behind him at .337 with 22 RBIs. Catcher Spencer Navin is batting .310. First baseman Conrad Gregor .295 and outfielder Tony Kemp .284 are also names that should be familiar.
What USC needs...The Gamecocks aren't anywhere near must win territory, but winning this series would be a strong step forward for their season. Thus far they had a bad series in Lexington and a better series at home against Florida. Because of that they are sitting at 1-5. Winning 2 of 3 would only put them at 3-6, but it would be a big momentum builder and an indication they are continuing to improve.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.