There is no doubt that South Carolina played its worst baseball of the season last week, but it is not time to panic despite the Gamecocks going 1-3 and being outscored 34-10.
USC recorded sweeps in three of its first four SEC series, and at the time the feeling was that getting sweeps was huge because when Carolina went through a rough stretch it would still be in good shape.
Now that the rough stretch is here, it would be hypocritical to ignore the strong start to the season and only focus on what is happening now, assuming USC will eventually snap out of the rough stretch.
“There’s going to be series losses in this league,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said after Sunday’s game. “We’ve been lucky that we got three sweeps. You’re in a good spot. It’s not like we’ve got to climb up hill. We’ve just got to play better and swing the bat like we’re capable.”
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At the halfway point of the SEC season South Carolina is tied with Florida atop the SEC standings at 11-4 and is No. 5 in the updated NCAA RPI.
A 56-game schedule is long, and it is impossible to play your best over the whole 56-game stretch.
Two of the top four teams in last week’s D1Baseball.com poll, Mississippi State and Florida State, also went 1-3.
Looking at the big picture, South Carolina should not have lost two of three to Georgia. The Gamecocks also probably should not have swept Ole Miss on the road, a team that is No. 7 in the RPI. It all tends to even out over the course of a season.
“We’re 11-4 in the conference. We’re playing in the best conference in the country,” leading hitter Alex Destino said. “We have a lot to look forward to down the road. We just need to make sure we don’t dwell on anything.”
Batting averages also tend to even out, and several of South Carolina’s best hitters are in a slump.
John Jones, who was batting well over .400 through the first weekend of SEC play, is down to .312. Dom Thompson-Williams, LT Tolbert, Jonah Bride and DC Arendas also have seen their batting averages drop off significantly.
While Jones wasn’t going to bat .400 for an entire season, he is a better hitter than he has shown the past couple of weeks, as are his teammates.
USC’s batting average last week was .212 against less than stellar pitching, and the Gamecocks particularly struggled with runners on base.
“There’s no other way to pop out of a little rut you’re in other than getting a hit when people are out there,” Holbrook said.
South Carolina faces Furman in Greenville on Wednesday before returning home to face Missouri, a team that is 20-18 (4-11).
If USC loses three of four games this week or drops the series at home to Missouri then there is reason for concern, but there is no reason to panic yet.
“I believe in my team. I believe in their character, and I believe in their work ethic and I believe in their camaraderie,” Holbrook said. “We’re a close-knit group. We’ve played well over the course of time. Now we’ve hit a little bit of a rough patch. If you’ve got character you’ll pop out of it. Now you’ve got to play well, and I believe that we will.”