It’s time for round two. South Carolina and The Citadel met on the diamond on March 30 and tension was a little bit high. The Gamecocks (26-5) came away with a narrow 6-4 victory against a game squad from Charleston. That’s nothing new in the series though as the series is typically a tight one.
Jackie Bradley Jr. will lead the charge against The Citadel in tonight's game at Joe Riley Park in Charleston.
“You’re playing a team that’s typically very, very good,” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said following the victory two weeks ago. “We played a lot of good games with them and they’ve been in the postseason many times. You have to battle.”
Bad news for the Bulldogs (12-20), which host the No. 3 team in the country at Joe Riley Park at 7 p.m. tonight, is centerfielder Nick Orvin is unlikely to play tonight and starting pitcher Bryce Hines, who started and kept the Gamecocks’ bats quiet throughout most of the evening in the first matchup, is also out with lingering soreness from his last start.
It is the same problem that left-hander Steven Neff was diagnosed with following his start against Georgia the first weekend of the conference season. Now, after two weekends missing in action, Neff is healthy and ready to pitch. He was available against Tennessee over the weekend but wasn’t called upon. Now, he’ll start against the Bulldogs.
To earn his way back into the rotation will take an impressive performance. Since Neff and Tyler Webb went down with injuries, other players have stepped up. Sophomore Colby Holmes, who was the sixth or seventh starting option when preseason camp opened, just earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors for his seven-inning shutout performance against Tennessee.
This season, the South Carolina pitching staff has a team ERA of 2.47 and opponents are hitting .213, which is the best in the Southeastern Conference. In 277 innings pitched, the Gamecocks have 257 strikeouts and 94 walks.
Third baseman Adrian Morales is doubtful for the game tonight with injured ligaments in his left hand. The coaching staff has planned to give him a few days off in preparation for the Vanderbilt series this weekend. Should he not play, the likely starter at third base is utility man Robert Beary, who has played in left field, right field, catcher, and designated hitter this year.
South Carolina Steven Neff (Jr. LHP) 2-0, 2.49 ERA, 21.2 IP, 6 BB, 18 SO
The Citadel TBA
The Bulldogs are coming off their biggest series win of the season taking two of three games from College of Charleston at home. Head coach Fred Jordan’s team took the opening two games of the series behind a complete game from Matt Talley on Friday night and a 17-14 victory on Saturday.
Catcher Joe Jackson leads the team in hitting this season at .333 and has 16 runs batted in to his credit. Orvin, who is likely out, is the team’s top home run hitter with five on the year. Outfielder Brad Felder has four while no one else on the team has more than two home runs.
The Citadel has not named a starter but The Post and Courier in Charleston reports that Jordan will likely choose between right-hander T.J. Clarkson and southpaw Logan Cribb. Cribb picked up the loss in the first game against the Gamecocks allowing one earned run on two hits in two and two-thirds innings pitched.