If the South Carolina baseball team is going to snap an uncharacteristic four-game losing streak, then it couldn’t have picked a better opponent if recent history holds.
The No. 11 Gamecocks head to Auburn – a team they have defeated 17 of the past 20 times dating to 2007 – for a key SEC road series this weekend.
The domination by USC since the teams began to meet regularly in 1992 is staggering. Since that time, the Gamecocks have posted a 40-16 mark against the Tigers, which includes 13 consecutive series victories going back to 1998 as well as a 12-game winning streak between 1998 and 2001.
South Carolina has an eight-game winning streak against Auburn that dates to the start of the 2011 season. But the Gamecocks (28-9, 8-7 SEC) don’t enter this series with the kind of swagger they usually have.
With a string of injuries to nearly half the starting lineup, they’ve lost four games in a row for the first time since 2009. A Friday loss to Auburn (21-17, 6-9 SEC), which is guided by new coach Sunny Golloway, would represent the first five-game losing streak for USC since 1997, former coach Ray Tanner’s first season.
“All I know is that it’s a new Auburn, too. They’ve got a different team,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “Our confidence is shaken a little bit. We’ve got to try to find a way to win the game.”
Although their everyday lineup mightmay be a makeshift one, the Gamecocks will send an excellent trio of arms – left-handers Jordan Montgomery and Jack Wynkoop and right-hander Wil Crowe – to the mound as starters. Right-hander Joel Seddon remains one of the SEC’s top closers.
DC Arendas will start at shortstop in place of Marcus Mooney, who’s out for the series with a concussion.
“We know we’ve got to get some things going. We’ve got to get some runs for our pitchers and pick those guys up,” Arendas said. “Any time you’re playing on the road in the SEC, it’s going to be tough to win there.”
Two weeks ago, the Gamecocks stood at 26-3 after winning the first game of the Arkansas series, but six losses in the past eight games, which included series losses to the Razorbacks and Florida, have jolted their self-assurance. The recent midweek losses to Charleston Southern and The Citadel have put more pressure on them.
“We’re a big win away or a big inning away from getting out of it,” Holbrook said. “You’ve just got to try not to let it steamroll downhill and let four in a row become eight or nine.”
USC senior designated hitter Brison Celek called the Auburn series “a big test for us as a team. It’ll show what we’re made of for the rest of the season. Coach Holbrook always says we haven’t played our best baseball yet, and, hopefully, that’s true. We’ll figure it out.”