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March 28, 2014

Weekend series preview: UT

No. 22 TENNESSEE (19-4, 3-3) at NO. 2 SOUTH CAROLINA (21-3, 3-3)

When: Friday: 7 p.m., Saturday 4 p.m., Sunday 1:30 p.m.
Where: Carolina Stadium
Tickets: Available at the box office
TV: None.
Series: South Carolina leads 51-34.
Last meeting: USC won 19-2 in Columbia on April 7, 2013.
Probable starting pitchers:
South Carolina
Friday: Jr. LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-2, 4.99 ERA, 30.2 IP, 12 BB, 32 K)
Saturday: So. LHP Jack Wynkoop (4-1, 1.98 ERA, 36.1 IP, 4 BB, 34 K)
Sunday: Fr. RHP Wil Crowe (5-0, 1.63 ERA, 38.2 IP, 6 BB, 25 K)
Tennessee
Friday: RHP Nick Williams (3-2, 1.88 ERA, 38.1 IP, 8 BB, 25 K)
Saturday: LHP Hunter Martin (2-1, 0.98 ERA, 18.1 IP, 6 BB, 10 K)
Sunday: RHP Andrew Lee (3-0, 3.94 ERA, 32.0 IP, 9 BB, 19 K)

Notes: Tennessee comes in 19-4 under third-year coach David Serrano having lost two of three games to Auburn at home last weekend. Tennessee won two of three games at Missouri to open SEC play The Gamecocks are 20-1 on the year when allowing five runs or less in a game. In addition, South Carolina is 10-0 when scoring six or more runs. South Carolina is 9-2 in games decided by three runs or less. The Gamecocks are also 18-1 on the year when scoring first in a game and 19-2 when outhitting the opponent South Carolina is hitting .301 (242-for-805) as a team with a .379 on-base percentage and a .424 slugging percentage. All three of those marks are among SEC leaders. The pitching staff leads the league with a 1.80 ERA. The Gamecocks have 208 strikeouts in 215.0 innings. Opponents are hitting .203 against the Gamecocks. South Carolina has fielded .978 as a team with only 19 errors.

###

Another weekend, another hot-hitting SEC team with which No. 2 South Carolina must contend.

"Tennessee obviously is off to a very good start and is a great team," USC head coach Chad Holbrook said. "They have some veterans back from a year ago, the pitching staff looks very strong and they'll start a senior (tonight).

"They've got a number of hitters hitting over .300 and they put a lot of pressure on you on the bases; they have 49 stolen bases. They do a great job with the short game.

"They're excited. They've had a couple of tough years, but they feel like they have an NCAA Tournament team, an Omaha-type team, and when you look at them on paper and watch them on tape I agree with them. It's going to be a heck of a challenge, much like we had the first two weekends in the league."

Against a Kentucky team that led the country in runs per game and still leads the SEC in hitting, South Carolina's pitchers were effective over the final two days, allowing two runs Saturday and three Sunday after surrendering 13 on Friday night, nine from starter Jordan Montgomery in the first two innings alone. Holbrook said the difference between the Kentucky and Tennessee series is a simple one.

"The biggest difference between this one (Tennessee) and the Kentucky (series) is we're at home," Holbrook said.

Even holding the Wildcats to two runs on Saturday wasn't enough to win, however, as the Gamecock offense failed to deliver timely hits in a 2-1 defeat that lost the series. For USC to do better in the league, Holbrook knows his offense needs to step forward.

"Our backbone of our team is our pitching staff," Holbrook said. "They're going to have to keep (UT) at bay, but I told our guys (Wednesday) that offensively, we're going to have to do our part. We're going to have to score.

"(Tennessee) is going to get their share of hits, they're going to get their share of runs and we need to do the same."

Injury outlook: Holbrook said sophomore second baseman Max Schrock will almost definitely play this weekend, though most likely in a designated hitting role unless his ankle improves dramatically. He also said junior catcher Grayson Greiner would play though he may be limited offensively while wearing a protective guard over his bruised left thumb.

WHAT TO WATCH: Jordan Montgomery. His past two starts against quality competition have been poor, and his start a week ago in Lexington was the worst of his career in terms of runs allowed (9), hits allowed (10) and duration (2 IP). In the second inning alone, Montgomery surrendered seven hits - six consecutively - and two home runs while Kentucky scored six runs. The only reason the inning ended was because a runner tried to stretch a single to a double and was thrown out at second.

If Montgomery struggles like that again, he may switch with Wil Crowe in the weekend rotation, sliding to Sunday until he can straighten himself out. At this point, nothing is off the table should his slide continue, because you can't have your No. 1 pitcher throw the kind of games he's been throwing (allowing six runs against Clemson and Ole Miss before Kentucky's routed him) and remain the No. 1 pitcher.

SEC Standings
Eastern Division
South Carolina 3-3, 21-3
Tennessee 3-3, 19-4
Vanderbilt 3-3, 21-5
Florida 3-3, 16-9
Kentucky 3-3, 18-7
Georgia 1-4, 14-11
Missouri 1-5, 11-12

Western Division
Auburn 4-2, 18-8
Ole Miss 4-2, 21-5
Mississippi State 4-2, 18-9
LSU 3-2, 20-5
Alabama 3-3, 16-8
Arkansas 3-3, 16-8
Texas A&M 3-3, 17-9

League games this weekend: Friday:
*Missouri at Auburn 6 pm CT
*Ole Miss at Alabama 6:35 pm CT
*Arkansas at Mississippi State 6:30 pm CT
*LSU at Florida [#-CSS] 7:30 pm ET
*Texas A&M at Georgia [#] 7 pm ET
*Kentucky at Vanderbilt 6:30 pm CT
*Tennessee at South Carolina 7 pm ET

Saturday
*Missouri at Auburn [#-SPSO] Noon CT
*Ole Miss at Alabama [#-CSS] 6 pm CT
*Arkansas at Mississippi State 2 pm CT
*LSU at Florida [CBSSN] 1 pm ET
*Texas A&M at Georgia [#] 1 pm ET
*Kentucky at Vanderbilt 2 pm CT
*Tennessee at South Carolina 4 pm ET

Sunday
*Ole Miss at Alabama 1:05 pm CT
*Arkansas at Mississippi State 1:30 pm CT
*LSU at Florida 1 pm ET
*Texas A&M at Georgia 1 pm ET
*Kentucky at Vanderbilt [#-ESPNU] 1 pm CT
*Tennessee at South Carolina 1:30 pm ET

TV codes:
FSN - Fox Sports South, Sun Sports, Fox Sports
Southwest, Fox Sports Houston
SPSO - SportSouth, Sun Sports, Fox Sports
Southwest, Fox Sports Houston
CSS - Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast
SUN - Sun Sports
FSFL - Fox Sports Florida
CST - Cox Sports Television
FSSO - Fox Sports South (FS South)
CBSSN - CBS Sports Network
# - Available on WatchESPN/ESPN3

More content from GamecockCentral.com:

Kershaw's Corner - statistical breakdown of Gamecocks/Vols upcoming baseball series (FREE)

The Insider Report has more on USC's involvement with a 5-star RB, defensive back recruiting, and a trio of d-linemen from Georgia that like USC (subscribers only)

Thursday's football practice report - Spurrier talks backup quarterback situation, more in-depth notes (subscribers only)





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