South Carolina and Oklahoma State could not have taken more different paths to the Columbia Super Regional.
While the Gamecocks were battling out of the loser’s bracket until Tuesday, OSU was hanging out in Clemson for a couple of days after needing only three games to make it through the Clemson Regional.
South Carolina needed 694 pitches to navigate through its regional with its top two starters each throwing an inning Tuesday .
The Cowboys threw only 440 pitches while knocking off Nebraska once and Clemson twice, outscoring their opponents 27-4 over the weekend.
“I think they have the upper hand in regards to being a little fresher than we are. Not a little bit, a lot more,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said Friday. “They weren’t as taxed in their regional from a pitching standpoint as we were. Obviously, coming out of the loser’s bracket is very difficult. They didn’t have to do that. They’re well-rested. We’re not.”
Oklahoma State will start ace Thomas Hatch on Saturday against the Gamecocks after the sophomore threw seven shutout innings last weekend against Nebraska.
The righty is 7-2 with a 2.16 ERA and was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year.
Hatch was selected in the third round of the MLB Draft by the Cubs on Friday, and will present a big challenge for a USC lineup that scored 43 runs in its final three games of the Columbia Regional.
“We’re facing one of the better guys in the country,” Holbrook said. “It’s no different than facing Logan Shore of Florida or any of the best guys that we’ve seen thus far. He’s in the elite of the elite in college baseball.”
Hatch said he isn’t worried about facing a South Carolina lineup that has been swinging the bats well, noting that Clemson averaged 21 runs in its previous two games before facing the Cowboys and was held to two runs in each meeting with OSU.
Hatch credited pitching coach Rob Walton for having the Oklahoma State staff ready to go against the Tigers.
“It was a similar situation at Clemson. They rolled through the ACC Tournament. Their offense was hot,” he said. “Rob really preaches executing pitches to the glove, and if you do that, the results will follow. As long as we keep that mentality we’ll be fine.”
South Carolina is taking a different approach to the Super Regional, going with an all-hands-on-deck mindset for Game 1 and worrying about the rest of the weekend as it plays out.
Either Clarke Schmidt or Braden Webb, USC’s top two starters all year, will start the opening game. But whichever one of the two doesn’t start could be used in relief Saturday.
“We’re going to go about this Super Regional a little different than we’ve gone in the past as far as a regular weekend series because of how we were extended last week,” Holbrook said. “We’re going to throw everybody out there that we can to try to win the game. If both of those guys I just mentioned throw, then both of them throw.”
Even though the situation is not ideal for the Gamecocks, Holbrook likes where his pitching staff is.
In addition to Schmidt and Webb, Adam Hill, Tyler Johnson, Taylor Widener and Josh Reagan threw well in the Columbia Regional and will be available to be used in a number of scenarios this weekend.
“I don’t know if this is a perfect setup for us, but we’re as fresh as we can be. The guys have bounced back very well,” Holbrook said. “We feel good that we can get some innings out of Clarke and Braden and Tyler and all of our guys… I don’t know if I can sit here and say, ‘Hey, Braden go give us seven or eight tomorrow, or Clarke.’ I don’t know if they’re in that position. So we’re going to have to do it as a team, as an entire pitching staff.”