South Carolina is led on the mound and at the plate by a junior class that has yet to earn a series win against Clemson. They are ready for that to change this weekend.
The Gamecocks have won 25 of the past 37 games against their in-state rival, but have lost two consecutive series by a margin of 2-1.
No. 5 Carolina will try to regain control of the rivalry beginning Friday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
“The fact that I have not won a series against Clemson is digging at me,” Gamecocks All-American closer Tyler Johnson said. “It’s big for me, and I think it’s big for (Clarke) Schmidt and a bunch of older guys here. We want to get this rivalry back on track.”
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Schmidt, USC’s ace, got the Gamecocks off to a strong start last year in Columbia, pitching eight scoreless innings with nine strikeouts.
But Carolina dropped Game 2 in the series 5-0 in Greenville, before falling 4-1 on Sunday in Clemson.
“ I pitched good against them last year. We got the win. But that doesn’t really mean much to me if we don’t win the series,” Schmidt said. “You come to South Carolina to beat Clemson. That’s one of the biggest things here.”
Schmidt will try to get the Gamecocks off to a fast start on Friday, making his first start in a stadium he is very familiar with.
Clarke watched his older brother, Clate, pitch for the Tigers on several occasions.
“In high school, I would go over there every Saturday or Sunday to watch Clate pitch. I’ve seen what their fans can do,” he said. “They’ve got a great atmosphere. I saw how (Wil) Crowe pitched his (sophomore) year when he had the atmosphere there. They’re a hostile crowd, and I like that. I think it puts a chip on my shoulder.”
During Crowe’s sophomore year in 2015, he was roughed up by the Tigers, surrendering 11 hits and eight earned runs in an 11-4 loss.
He hasn’t forgotten the loss and is looking forward to being on the mound for Game 2 on Saturday in Greenville.
“It wasn’t good, but the past is the past. It’s OK,” he said. “I’m not worried about it.”
Joining Schmidt and Crowe in South Carolina’s rotation will be sophomore Adam Hill, who was not in USC’s starting rotation for the Clemson series last season.
The 15th-ranked Tigers will start left-handers Charlie Barnes and Pat Krall on Friday and Saturday, before turning to righty Alex Eubanks on Sunday.
Barnes has an ERA of 1.46, while Krall and Eubanks are at 3.86 and 3.97.
Schmidt and Crowe have an ERA under 1, and Hill’s is 1.50.
“They’ve got some pitchers that can really throw it, as well,” Holbrook said. “Our kids have a sense of maturity about them. But their guys have pitched in big moments, too. It’s going to come down to who pitches a little bit better, who makes the plays behind them and who gets the big two-out hits with runners in scoring position.”
Who: USC (6-3) vs. Clemson (6-2)
When/Where: Friday, 6:30 p.m., Doug Kingmore Stadium at Clemson; Saturday, 1 p.m., Fluor Field at Greenville; Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Founders Park
Radio: 107.5; 93.1 FM