Field Report: Plains Edition

bilde8494963777South Carolina traveled to the Plains to play Auburn.  The Gamecocks won the series 2 games to 1 by scores of 11-5, 2-0 and 6-10.

Breaking it down…Like last weekend’s series sweep, the story this weekend revolved around pitching.  On Friday night Blake Cooper went 7 innings giving up 4 runs and striking out 5.  At first blush giving up 4 runs, earned runs at that, doesn’t seem too impressive.  The impressive part was the way they were handled.  Cooper gave up 2 runs in both the 1st and 2nd innings and then went on to pitch 5 scoreless.  It takes a tremendous amount of intestinal fortitude (and talent) for a pitcher to give up 4 runs and then hold an opponent scoreless for a long outing.  Credit is also due Mark Calvi and Ray Tanner who had the wisdom and foresight to leave Cooper in the game against an Auburn offense that had scored 19 runs in 43 runs in three games against Georgia.

Making Cooper’s job easier was the Gamecock offense.  At the end of 2 USC led 8-4.  USC was paced by left fielder Adam Matthews who went 3 for 3 with 3 RBI, a HR, and a walk.  Parker Bangs and Scott Wingo both added homeruns as part of an 11 hit South Carolina barrage.

Gamecock pitching did not have the luxury of massive run support on Saturday.  In fact, it wasn’t until the 8th inning that USC scratched its first run.  They would add another in the ninth and that would be enough to win 2-0.  The South Carolina pitching staff was excellent in handing Auburn its first home shutout since 2005.  Sam Dyson danced his way through 7 innings in which he gave up 10 hits and struck out 9.  Several times he loaded the bases and managed to wiggle free without damage.  Michael Roth and Matt Price came in to clean up the final two innings.  The pitching staff walked exactly 0 Tigers.

Sunday brought out the Auburn bats that had bloodied Georgia so badly a week before.  The Tigers got 3 runs in the 1st, 4th, and 6th innings in route to a 10-6 win.  The Gamecocks managed to put some pressure on late, but in the end the winning streak was snapped at 13 games.  Freshman Tyler Webb didn’t last long and virtually all of the 7 pitchers South Carolina used had trouble.  It wasn’t an especially memorable game, but the good news was that the series win was already in hand.

What to take from the weekend…Road series win?  That’s almost as good as home series sweep.  Be optimistic about this team.  The 13 game winning streak, which ended on Sunday, shows that this team might have some long term staying power.  Over the course of the streak the team won in several ways: blowouts, high scoring games, low scoring games, games that were over before they started, and extra-inning games.  Teams that are versatile enough to win in several different ways are often mistaken for teams without an identity.  Without a glaring strength the teams are often dismissed as missing a key ingredient.  At this point, you’d be foolish to draw such conclusions about this team.

Stars of the weekend… Sam Dyson earned Saturday’s win after pitching 7 scoreless innings in which he struck out 9 and walked none…Matt Price recorded the save after 1 1/3 innings of no hit, two strike-out pitching…Parker Bangs finished the weekend 5 of 12 with a HR and 6 RBI…Adam Matthews was 5 of 9 with 4 RBI and a HR…Scott Wingo, the slugging second baseman, finished 4 of 11 with 2 RBI, a HR, and a double.

This and thatSouth Carolina is now 19-5 on the year including a 5-1 mark in the Southeastern Conference.  Carolina is tied with LSU in the conference race and leads Florida (4-2) by one game in the SEC Eastern Division.

Also the Gamecocks moved up to 12th in this week’s Baseball America poll. The Gamecocks have won 13 of their past 14 games. Coastal Carolina is 14th in the Baseball America ranking. Clemson is 16th. Virginia is the number one team.

Collegiate Baseball has Clemson 13th, USC 14th and Coastal Carolina 16th. The Citadel is 25th. Arizona State is the number one team in that poll.

SC is 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.  Clemson is 10th. CCU is 15th. 

Up next…First the Gamecocks play host to The Citadel on Tuesday.  El Cid is 9-0 in the Southern conference and 18-6 overall….After that the Gamecocks stay home to take on Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs spent the weekend beating Georgia after having lost their opening series to Florida 3 games to none.