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March 25, 2014

Baseball preview: College of Charleston

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (16-7) at NO. 1 SOUTH CAROLINA (19-3)

When: 7 p.m.
Where: Carolina Stadium
Tickets: Available at the box office
TV: None
Series: South Carolina leads 47-6.
Last meeting: USC won 10-6 in Columbia on April 16, 2013.
Probable starting pitchers
South Carolina: Fr. RHP Taylor Widener (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 10.0 IP, 2 BB, 9 K).
College of Charleston: Fr. RHP Tyler Thornton (0-1, 4.71 ERA, 21 IP, 6 BB, 12 K)
Notes: The Cougars will have their final tuneup on Tuesday vs. the Gamecocks before opening its first conference series in the Colonial Athletic Association with a three-game set vs. Northeastern Sophomore third baseman Blake Butler is the team's leading hitter with a .344 average (33-for-96) with 19 runs scored. Senor left fielder Brandon Murray has four homers and 19 RBI and the team's best slugging percentage at .513. Junior second baseman Gunnar Heidt played with Tanner English at St. James HS. He is hitting .256 (21-for-82) with 21 runs scored, three homers and 16 RBI College of Charleston will send freshman RHP Tyler Thornton to the hill vs. the Gamecocks on Tuesday. Thornton is 0-1 with a .471 ERA in 21.0 innings. This will be his fourth start and 10th appearance for the Cougars. Head coach Monte Lee is in sixth season at the helm of the Cougars. Lee served as Volunteer Assistant under Ray Tanner at South Carolina from 2003-08 and was part of a pair of College World Series teams in the Garnet & Black as well as six NCAA Regional squads.

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South Carolina is banged up.

Catcher Grayson Greiner has a sore left thumb from catching that will stay with him for life and is aggravated when he swings and misses or fouls pitches off. Starting second baseman Max Schrock has a sprained ankle that has taken longer to heal than hoped. Starting third baseman Joey Pankake still isn't 100 percent after an elbow strain last fall, coach Chad Holbrook said.

At a time when just a single midweek game might be welcome as No. 2 South Carolina prepares for a weekend series against SEC East division foe Tennessee, ranked No. 22 this week, the Gamecocks will play two in two days beginning tonight against the College of Charleston led by former assistant Monte Lee.

Freshman Taylor Widener, who pitched 2.1 innings in relief of Jordan Montgomery last Friday night against Kentucky, allowing a hit and an unearned run while striking out three and walking none, will get the ball tonight against a C of C team that last defeated the Gamecocks in April 2012.

For a lineup that struggled for long stretches offensively against Kentucky, scoring just one run on seven hits Saturday, facing a freshman right-hander with a 4.70 ERA tonight might be just the tonic the offense needs to heat up as it kicks off a six-game home stand. When scoring five or more runs this year, the Gamecocks are 16-1. When scoring five or less, USC is 9-3.

WHAT TO WATCH: Taylor Widener makes his first start of the year tonight after having not allowed an earned run in 10 innings over six appearances. Widener has nine strikeouts to two walks on the year and he's also a talented hitter, starting at DH on Sunday in Kentucky where he went 0-for-3 with an RBI.



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