WELL-ARMED ON THE WEEKENDS
Ray Tanner mentioned three names for Sunday’s starting role on the mound Thursday, but it should be noted that none of them were Matt Price.
That seems to say that Price, at least for now, is the closer, a spot where he can have an impact on more than one game each weekend. He did that against Georgia last weekend, when he got the win Saturday win with an inning of relief and the save Sunday with two innings of relief.
Tanner said that he expected Forrest Koumas, Tyler Webb or Colby Holmes to be Sunday’s starter, depending on which one can provide the best matchup at that point. But it would not surprise me – if USC loses the first two games and Price doesn’t pitch in either one – for Tanner to throw that plan out the window and give the ball in a must-win situation to his best arm.
If the Gamecocks can split the first two games, and Price gets a save, then he’ll stay right where he is. It appears Tanner would love to turn Koumas loose as a starter at some point, but he still wants to be convinced that his freshman right-hander can harness that electric stuff and throw strikes consistently.
At some point, I expect Webb to get another crack in the rotation as well. The sophomore lefty pitched well in his first two starts of the season, but he scuffled in his next two and fell by the boards. But Webb was considered the potential No. 1 starter much of the fall for a reason. He has the ability to be a weekend guy, but he must be able to show that he can handle adversity and pitch through tough situations.
Tanner should know a lot more about how these roles are going to shake out after the series against the top-ranked Gators.
The lineup showed many signs of life in the two blowout wins over College of Charleston and Rhode Island. The Gamecocks scored 41 runs on 38 hits, which included seven homers and 13 doubles. They swung the bats well all through the lineup, which is exactly what they needed from a confidence standpoint heading into the Florida series.
It’s funny how you don’t hear anyone complaining about the new bats after a couple of games like that. The best hitters can still hit the ball hard when they square it up, and this outburst shows it. Of course, when USC faces the kind of pitching like it’s going to see this weekend, it’s not as likely to bang the ball all around the ballpark. And that will have nothing to do with the bats.
But this surge at the plate can do nothing but help the team as it moves into the heart of the SEC schedule. Hitting can be contagious, and when things get rolling at the plate, the ability to build early leads can also translate into confidence for the pitching staff as well. Tanner said Thursday that he hopes his team can jump out on top this weekend to put some pressure on the Gators. Let’s see if that happens.
The national championship definitely has made a difference in attendance at Carolina Stadium. With around 5,000 season tickets sold, the Gamecocks are currently averaging 7,306 fans over 17 home dates. They’ve played in front of three sellout crowds of 8,242, two in the opening series against Santa Clara and one against Clemson. Three near-capacity crowds of over 8,000 also showed up in all three of the recent Georgia games.
While those figures are the number of tickets sold and not people in seats, it’s still impressive to see that many fans show up on a regular basis for college baseball. Because Carolina Stadium, which opened in 2009, is so nice, and the team is so good, the fans have enjoyed flocking to the ballpark, especially on the many warm-weather days that we’ve already experienced this season.
It doesn’t hurt that fourth-ranked USC has compiled a 15-2 home record. Nothing will keep bringing people back like a winner.