The games keep getting bigger each weekend for the South Carolina baseball team.
This time, the opponent is Florida, which comes to Carolina Stadium tied with the Gamecocks for first place in the SEC East.
The No. 15 Gators (21-12) have proven they can compete with any team in the country. They swept No. 16 LSU at home two weekends ago, and they also won all three games against No. 1 Florida State.
“They’ve beaten some really good opponents,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said.
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“They’re a young team, very, very talented and very athletic. The strength of their team is their pitching staff, so they’re similar to us in that regard. It’s obviously a big weekend for them, being 7-5, as it is for us.”
Holbrook noted the ability of freshman right-hander Logan Shore (3-1, 1.15 ERA over 47 innings) as well as the play of veterans such as catcher Taylor Gushue (.322 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBIs) and second baseman Casey Turgeon (,266 BA, 3 HR, 20 RBIs).
No. 1 where it counts
Holbrook usually doesn’t allow himself to worry about things such as RPI until midseason. But with the halfway point here, he admits to being pleased with USC being No. 1 in the NCAA’s official RPI for two straight weeks.
“It’s a good thing. We’ve got some quality wins against some quality opponents,” he said. “(If) we can hang in there and keep our head above water toward the end of the year, I think our RPI is going to be good simply because of the opponents we’re playing. We have an opportunity to get some extremely good wins against some quality RPI teams as we go forward.”
Four other SEC teams reside in the RPI Top 10, including Florida at No. 8. Finishing the regular season at that level can play an important role in getting to host NCAA regionals and Super Regionals. Holbrook knows that his 27-5 team must keep playing well for that to happen.
“That’s been a big part of seeding, and that’s been a big part of the NCAA tournament. If you go on history, the RPI trumps where you’re ranked nationally in any of the polls,” he added. “We’ll certainly have a chance to host in the NCAA tournament. That’s one of the goals we set forth when we start the season.”
Sick and tired
Second baseman Max Schrock, whose sprained ankle has either sidelined him or kept him from being full-speed for a month, remains banged up. Now he’s sick as well with flu-like symptoms. Holbrook was going to rest him for Thursday’s practice in the hope that his sophomore would feel good enough to play in the Florida series.