Preview: Gamecocks continue SEC play at home against Missouri
South Carolina resumes SEC play tonight with a home series against Missouri as they try to make it three straight series wins in two years.
It's been a good stretch for the Gamecocks, who are coming off a series win over Georgia over the weekend and are 8-2 in their last 10 games going up against a Missouri team that's 3-7 in its last 10 games and 2-3 in the last five.
Before the series starts, here's what you need to know about this weekend's series at home.
Game times: 7 p.m./4 p.m./Noon (SEC Network Plus Friday/Saturday, SEC Network Sunday)
Friday: RHP Thomas Farr (2-1, 2.97 ERA) vs. RHP Seth Halvorsen
Saturday: RHP Brannon Jordan (3-2, 3.19 ERA) vs. RHP Spencer Miles (1-5, 7.01 ERA)
Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Zach Hise (0-3, 5.62 ERA)
The Tigers come in at 10-17 and 3-6 in the SEC, winners of their last series against Texas A&M. Missouri lost game one of that series but won the final two games of the series by a combined score of 15-5 and are No. 111 in the RPI entering the weekend.
Pitching has struggled for the Tigers this season with a team ERA of 7.15 ERA and having allowed 184 walks this season and 63 in SEC play, both the highest among the league’s 14 teams.
As a team they’re hitting .242/.350/.359, all three marks lower than South Carolina and struggle to hit for power and get on base at a consistent clip.
Offensively they’re led by Andrew Keefer, who’s hitting .318/.417/.459 with 11 runs driven in but don’t have another hitter over .280 on the season.
From a pitching standpoint Konnor Ash and Jacob Kush are two of their better bullpen arms with Ash having a 1.50 ERA in six innings pitches while Kush has a 2.19 ERA in 12.1 innings.
"Missouri, we know, is a dangerous team. They always have been. We’re going to respect every opponent we play,” Mark Kingston said. “Missouri always has guys that get after it, guys who compete. They’re well coached. We don’t take anything for granted we’re not in a position to take anything for granted.”
Milone making strides
After scuffling to start the year, Brennan Milone has been making an impact in the last three games, all starts.
The former top 100 prospect has started the last three games at third base and is hitting .250/.539/.375 with two RBI and three runs scored. The biggest thing for him is he’s only struck out twice in 13 plate appearances with five walks.
It isn’t where he needs to be or where he can be, but Kingston sees progress.
“I wouldn’t say he’s there yet but would say he’s moving in the right direction. I thought he had three good at-bats (Tuesday) night and one not-so-good at-bat,” Kingston said. “He had two walks and one two-strike lineout to left field. He’s making progress. I don’t think he’s near where we think he can be yet and we’ve seen him be. At this point we hope to continue to see progress and at some point he’ll get there.”
Sunday for Sanders?
South Carolina’s operated under a TBA the last two weekends in SEC play but it’s been Sanders who’s started and done well.
He’s 2-0 in both starts, allowing four runs (three earned) on 10 hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
“So far he’s a guy that’s lived up to the hype,” “We hoped he’d be this good. Whether we thought he’d be this good this fast, that would have been maybe a little optimistic. He worked so hard you’re not surprised with the success he’s having.”
Sanders went into the ninth Sunday at Georgia becoming the first pitcher to toss eight innings since Braden Webb in 2016.
His five wins are third-most among SEC pitchers and he has the eighth-lowest ERA at 2.22. The Gamecocks are still going with TBA this weekend but Sanders seems to be making a strong case as the team’s third starter.
“The only thing I can control is my work off the field and during practice and what I learn. I really try to dedicate myself and my mind to this game and now my role on the team,” Sanders said. “Nothing is solidified yet. I try to get better every single day and that’s the only thing I can control.”