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April 7, 2014

Look back, look ahead: Gators coming

Before this past weekend's series loss at Arkansas, South Carolina had scored fewer than four runs in a three-game SEC series just twice since joining the conference in 1992.

Both those series occurred in 1992, USC's first year in the SEC - two runs vs. LSU and three runs at Auburn. In fact, the fewest runs the Gamecocks had scored in a three-game SEC series since 1995 was five at Georgia in 2008.

So, when USC was limited to three runs and 16 hits by Arkansas over 27 innings of baseball at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark., the run production represented the worst against an SEC opponent in 22 years.

USC compiled a lowly .168 batting average (16-of-95) and collected only three extra base hits against the Razorbacks in a three-game series played over two days because of inclement weather in the Ozarks.

In addition, USC left 18 runners stranded, fanned 26 times compared to six walks and was held to a season-low four total bases in Game 2, a 4-1 loss for USC. Since the Gamecocks pulled out the opener by scoring twice in the eighth inning for a 2-1 win, USC plated just one run in its final 19 at-bats.

USC's team batting average dropped to .289 (305-of-1056) in 31 games.

"We have to try and go back to the drawing board offensively and get better," USC head coach Chad Holbrook said. "We've shown flashes of it, but against better pitching we've been overpowered. We have to regroup. There is still a lot of the season left to be played, a lot of games to be played, a lot of challenges with similar arms, so we don't have a choice."

Tied with Florida atop the SEC East with identical 7-5 conference marks, USC hosts the Gators in a much-anticipated three-game series starting Friday night at Carolina Stadium.

The winner of the series is assured of finding themselves no worse than tied for first with Vanderbilt (6-6) or Kentucky (6-6) heading into the sixth weekend of conference play beginning April 18.

Just like USC, Florida (20-12) is coming off a series loss on the road at Kentucky. The Gators allowed 50 hits (15 for extra bases, seven homers) and 36 runs to the Wildcats, winning the middle game of the series by a rarely seen 11-10 score on Saturday.

The Gators, halfway through a season-high eight-game road trip, are just 3-6 away from Gainesville this season and face a trip to Florida State before arriving in Columbia for the crucial weekend series. Freshman third baseman John Sternagel is hitting a team-high .400 (10-for-25) with eight RBI, four walks and three runs over the past eight games since taking over the starting duties at third base.

Freshman RHP Logan Shore (3-1, 1.15 ERA) threw seven scoreless innings on Saturday in which UK was 3-for-23 (.130) against him. But the Gators bullpen imploded and nearly blew a nine-run lead. Shore has now worked five innings or more in all seven of his starts this year and improved to 3-0 in SEC play with a 1.67 ERA…

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jordan Montgomery
NATIONAL RANKINGS: No. 5 in Baseball America, No. 4 in Collegiate Baseball, No. 5 in Perfect Game USA.

April 1 vs. Appalachian State, W 2-1
April 3 at Arkansas, W 2-1
April 4 at Arkansas, L 4-1
April 5 at Arkansas, L 7-0

April 8 at Furman (Fluor Field), 7 p.m.
April 11 vs. Florida, 7 p.m.
April 12 vs. Florida, 4 p.m.
April 13 vs. Florida, 1:30 p.m.
(All Times Eastern)


-- Jordan Montgomery (4-2, 3.83 ERA in 44.2 IP) has a team-high 47 strikeouts in 44.2 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .249 against him.

-- Joel Seddon continued to dominate as a closer. He is now 8-for-8 in save opportunities this year after a perfect ninth inning in Saturday's 2-1 victory at Arkansas. Seddon has not allowed a run in 13 relief appearances with just four hits and three walks allowed in 17.0 IP. He has 25 strikeouts (Better than 8-to-1 K-to-BB ratio) with opponents hitting .073 against him.

-- Setup artist Cody Mincey is 2-0 with a 0.42 ERA in 21.1 IP with a team-high 16 relief appearances. He has 31 strikeouts and eight walks with opponents batting only .132 against him. He has allowed just one run on nine hits in his first year on the USC staff.

-- Ten of Marcus Mooney's 13 RBI this year have some with two outs. He is tied for the team high in walks with 14.

-- Joey Pankake is batting a team-leading .362 average (17-for-47) in SEC games. His 16-game hitting streak was snapped at Arkansas.

-- Evan Beal's return from injury has been successful so far: In two mid-week starts totaling 9.1 IP, Beal has allowed no runs on two hits with six strikeouts and one walk. OBA? An eye-opening .067.

-- USC is 12-0 this season when scoring six or more runs and 24-2 when allowing five runs or less. One of the two losses came Saturday in a 4-1 setback. In addition, the Gamecocks are 24-2 when outhitting the opponent and 20-1 when scoring first. USC is 19-0 when leading after six innings.

-- USC committed six errors in the Arkansas series, dropping its team fielding percentage to .974 (30 errors in 31 games).

-- Current SEC Eastern Division standings: USC 7-5, Florida 7-5, Vanderbilt 6-6, Kentucky 6-6, Georgia 5-6-1, Tennessee 5-7, Missouri 4-8. The divisional champion is guaranteed an opening round bye in the 2014 SEC Baseball Tournament.

-- Alabama owns the best record in the SEC (8-4). Nine of the league's 14 schools have five or six wins approaching the halfway point in the conference schedule.

Batting Average: Connor Bright (.350)
At-bats: Connor Bright (120)
Runs: Joey Pankake (32)
Hits: Connor Bright (42)
Doubles: Connor Bright (10)
Triples: Marcus Mooney and Tanner English (1)
Home Runs: Max Schrock (5)
RBI: Grayson Greiner (30)
Total Bases: Connor Bright (52)
Slugging Pct: Grayson Greiner (.495)
Walks: Kyle Martin and Marcus Mooney (14)
On-Base Pct: Joey Pankake (.415)
Stolen Bases: Three with 4.


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