South Carolina is not where it hoped to be at the halfway point of the SEC schedule, but the Gamecocks are within striking distance as they look to win a second consecutive SEC East crown.
USC is tied with Florida for second in the East at 8-7 and two games back of Kentucky.
The good news for South Carolina is that it plays the Gators and Wildcats the next two weekends. The bad news is doing so will not be easy.
South Carolina’s remaining SEC series are at Florida, Kentucky, at LSU, at Missouri and Georgia.
“There’s not going to be a lot of teams run away with it,” Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said Sunday. “If we go 10-5 or something like that, who knows. We’d have to play perfect baseball with our schedule we’ve got left. We’ll just try to win more than we lose.”
South Carolina went 2-3 in its first five SEC series, winning the first two before dropping three straight.
The Gamecocks were in position to earn series wins against Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State but went 0-4 in one-run or extra-inning games.
South Carolina finally won a close game on Sunday against MSU, scoring five runs in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie and earn a 6-1 win.
The Gamecocks control their own destiny to have the lead in the division after the next two weekends.
“We live to fight another day and keep our head above water in the SEC,” Holbrook said.
Florida (8-7), the preseason favorite to win the division, has been up-and-down this season.
The Gators have series wins over Vanderbilt, LSU and Missouri but dropped series to Auburn on the road and at home against Tennessee.
The Gators’ pitching staff has been as advertised, but an inconsistent offense has caused Florida to join the Gamecocks in not living up to preseason expectations.
Kentucky (10-5) and overall SEC leader Arkansas (11-4) have been the surprises of the conference.
The Wildcats have series wins over Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Missouri while only dropping a series against Mississippi State.
Kentucky has faced one of the other top five teams in the SEC and has series remaining against LSU (9-6), South Carolina (8-7) and Florida (8-7).
Missouri and Tennessee got off to great starts, but both teams have taken a step back since.
Tennessee (4-11) has only one SEC series win, albeit against the Gators, while Missouri (7-8) is 2-3 in SEC series with its wins coming against the bottom two teams in the conference in Georgia and Alabama.
Vanderbilt (7-8) has also been up-and-down with series wins over South Carolina and Texas A&M and series losses to Florida, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
The Commodores could get on a roll over the next couple of weekends as four of their final five SEC series are against teams with losing records in the conference in Georgia (4-11), Tennessee (4-11), Missouri (7-8) and Alabama (2-13).
For South Carolina to get back in contention in the SEC East and potentially the overall SEC standings the Gamecocks likely need to go 4-2 over the next two weekends.
Earning a series win at LSU will be tough, but USC should be favored the final two weekends against Missouri and Georgia. If the Gamecocks can figure out how to win close games, they should be a factor in the SEC East down the stretch.