For the fourth consecutive weekend, USC baseball coach Ray Tanner will use a different pitching rotation.
The Gamecocks play host to Kentucky in a three-game SEC series starting Friday, and there’s one way the rotation resembles those from the first six weeks of the season: Junior left-hander Michael Roth will start the opener.
After this weekend, Tanner will have used at least seven different starting pitchers for weekend games. He admits it’s not an ideal situation.
“I would really like for it to be settled. It’s a work in progress for one reason or another — injuries, mostly, right now,” Tanner said. “We’ve battled hard and had some guys step up and keep us in a position to win. So I’m very happy about that. But it is a challenge, ongoing.”
Sophomore left-handers Tyler Webb and Adam Westmoreland began the season in the weekend rotation, but both have fallen out. Webb (2-1, 1.83 ERA) pitched the first four weekends but struggled in his past two starts and now is experiencing arm soreness. Westmoreland (0-1, 6.04) pitched his way out of the rotation after four consecutive ineffective starts, two on the weekend and two in midweek games.
Junior left-hander Steven Neff (2-0, 2.49) pitched well enough to step into the Saturday role, but he was sidelined a week ago due to bicep soreness and will not pitch this weekend. Forrest Koumas (2-0, 2.79) started Saturday against Florida, allowing one unearned run on two hits in six innings, but he was hit hard by an allergic reaction to peanuts Monday that put him in the hospital for three days and has made him questionable for this weekend.
“He makes every statement that he should continue to get opportunities,” Tanner said. “Then he gets sick and has to miss a few days.”
But Tanner hopes Koumas, a hard-throwing, freshman right-hander, will be able to bounce back and start Sunday.
“I just want to get out there and do my part,” Koumas said. “If I have to come out of the bullpen, that’s fine. I like to start; it’s fun. Whatever coach Tanner tells me to do, I’ll run out there and do.”
Sophomore right-hander Colby Holmes (2-0, 4.00), a midweek starter most of his career, will benefit from the issues involving the rotation. He will make his first start against an SEC opponent Saturday. He pitched well in a start against College of Charleston last week and came up big in a relief appearance in Sunday’s series-clinching win over Florida.
“I just go out and pitch my best every time and, hopefully, move into a weekend start,” Holmes said. “I think I’ve shown them I could do it. To get this chance is pretty exciting.”
Tanner believes Holmes has earned this opportunity.
“The decision was made based on his production. He was productive for us not only in Gainesville, but prior to that. He’s had some quality innings,” Tanner said. “He’s certainly capable of having a good outing on Saturday.”
Tanner has come to depend on Roth (5-1, 1.50) to get things started each weekend. Now he’s hoping to keep his third-ranked Gamecocks (19-5) rolling despite all the uncertainty. “Some guys need to step up and have a big part in this weekend,” Holmes said.