Here are just a few random thoughts as the USC-Georgia gets under way at Carolina Stadium.
-- Depending on how either Adam Westmoreland or Tyler Webb pitch Sunday in the third game, Ray Tanner may shake things up with the weekend rotation. He still hasn’t ruled out moving closer Matt Price to the rotation if he doesn’t start to see some consistency from Westmoreland, Webb and Steven Neff, who’s pitching Saturday. I’d expect two of those three to pitch well enough to stay right where they are, but Tanner isn’t always the most patient guy when it comes to pitching. Of course, if Price did become a starter, that would leave a big void at the end of games. I’d say the role would fall to either senior John Taylor, who has been almost perfect this season, or freshman Forrest Koumas, who can have overpowering stuff.
-- If USC is going to get off to a strong SEC start, the hitting throughout the lineup will have to improve. Christian Walker, Jackie Bradley, Adrian Morales and newcomer Jake Williams all are swinging the bats well, but the rest of the lineup needs to find a groove. A true leadoff hitter has yet to surface, which makes me think that Tanner should simply put Evan Marzilli up there and let him ride it out. Marzilli showed he can hit in the 2010 postseason so it’s probably only a matter of time before he breaks out. Adam Matthews looks like he could settle into the No. 2 hole, where he has used his bunting skills and speed well so far. That also keeps Bradley and Walker at three and four. Tanner moved them up the other night to two and three to jump-start the lineup against Wofford. I’m sure he’ll continue to tinker until he finds the combination that he thinks will work best.
-- The Gamecocks played great on Fridays a year ago in the SEC, going 9-1 on that night in the 10 series, which helped them win eight of the series. Blake Cooper was a big part of that, of course, so it’ll be interesting to see if Michael Roth can give his team the same type of consistent performances. The first game in a three-game set is always crucial, and Roth has set the tone so far in the pre-conference schedule. His first big test comes against the Bulldogs, and it should tell fans a lot about where this team is headed.
-- You’ve got to feel for Georgia coach David Perno. For the second consecutive season, he’s dealing with a most unfortunate set of circumstances involving one of his players. Last season second baseman Chance Veazey was involved in a preseason motor scooter accident that left him paralyzed. And now earlier this month, outfielder Johnathan Taylor was involved in a game collision with teammate Zach Cone and needed surgery on his spine. He’s still not out of the woods and his long-term prognosis is unknown. Perno said Thursday that it has been incredibly difficult for the coaches and the players, but they’ve handled the adversity as well as they could while finding a way to rally around both Veazey and Taylor. Here’s hoping that Taylor continues to improve, and that Perno and the Bulldogs get a lot of good news the rest of the way.