After winning four games last week, the Gamecocks would like nothing better than to win four more this week to keep their momentum going.
Despite a schedule that looks favorable, there are no guarantees in baseball. USC plays USC Upstate (11-18) at home Tuesday before heading to Knoxville to play Tennessee (19-9) this weekend. The Volunteers started the season red-hot – OK, orange-hot -- but since the start of the conference schedule, they’ve gone 2-7 in SEC play. They were swept by Florida and lost two-of-three to Ole Miss and Kentucky.
The third-ranked Gamecocks (22-5, 7-2) have played well recently. They remain tied for the lead in the SEC East. In order to keep pace with top-ranked Vanderbilt (26-3) and No. 4 Florida (24-5), they can’t afford any major slipups. USC has won five in a row against the Volunteers dating back to 2009 and would like nothing more than to get out of Knoxville with a series win. A sweep would be even bigger with Vandy coming to town for a showdown the following weekend.
FORREST STANDS TALL
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Freshman right-hander Forrest Koumas showed his toughness with a 4-1 win over Kentucky Sunday. Bouncing back from a bad allergic reaction and three nights in the hospital, Koumas allowed just two hits over a career-high 6 1/3 shutout innings. His second consecutive standout start in SEC play has earned him a regular spot in the weekend rotation. It also earned him Co-Freshman of the Week honors in the SEC.
For the season, Koumas is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 25.2 innings with 26 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .174 against him.
ROTH AND PRICE ARE BOTH RIGHT
With his Friday night 3-1 victory over the Wildcats, junior left-hander Michael Roth continued to show why he’s the staff ace. Roth allowed just one run on three hits while striking out six in his eight-inning stint. That upped his season total to 6-1 with a 1.44 ERA over a team-high 50 innings pitched. He has walked only 12 batters and struck out 50.
Sophomore right-hander Matt Price is pitching just as well at the back end of games. He got the save Friday and the win Saturday against Kentucky. More amazingly, he hasn’t given up a run in 13 of 15 relief appearances on the season. Price is 3-2 with a 3.26 ERA with seven saves, numbers that would be much better if not for a rough outing in one of the Clemson games. With 22 strikeouts in 19.1 innings, Price is holding opponents to a .194 batting average.
Pitching carried the Gamecocks in the sweep against the Wildcats. The staff gave up a mere five runs in three games, as Kentucky could muster just a .181 team average and three-extra base hits. The team ERA for the weekend was 1.61.
SULLY GETS AN OPPORTUNITY
Sophomore right-hander Patrick Sullivan will draw his first career start Tuesday night against USC Upstate at Carolina Stadium.
In 4 1/3 innings over three appearances, the former A.C. Flora standout has allowed no runs on just one hit while also collecting a save against the College of Charleston. He pitched in relief in seven games last season with a 1.50 ERA, and while he didn’t pitch in the postseason, he was a member of the travel squad that went to the College World Series in Omaha.
Sullivan’s hard work and team-first approach have made him a favorite of the coaching staff. He’s the son of former USC third baseman John Sullivan (1981-84), who made two CWS trips himself and also served as an assistant coach to June Raines for a number of years. Patrick’s brother Sean is an outfielder at Winthrop, although he’s currently sidelined with a season-ending arm injury.