Clemson goes into this rivalry series against the Gamecocks with a record of 7-1 while the Gamecocks come in at 6-2. It should be a competitive series so let’s take an in-depth look.
In 2019, the Gamecocks were last in the SEC in hitting (.236 average) and ERA (5.51). This obviously isn’t a winning combination and led to a 28-28 record, while going 8-22 in the SEC. In 2020, the Gamecocks were picked to finish fourth in the East (behind Vandy, Florida, and Georgia) by D1 Baseball.
Like Clemson, the bats haven’t been red hot for the Gamecocks in the early going. They lost 2 out of 3 to Northwestern and failed to score over 3 runs in two of those games. However, they have some good pieces that Clemson will have to be careful with.
Noah Campbell (Jr. – Durham, NC) – Campbell is the switch-hitting, do-it-all player for the Gamecocks. He has been hitting in the 2 hole or 5 hole early on, and has been a constant in an unstable Gamecock order. He’s hitting .348 with one homerun and 8 RBI’s. He’s one of Carolina’s most important pieces and needs to have a big year for them to be successful. He leads the SEC in stolen bases with 8 in the early going.
Andrew Eyster (Juco Transfer – Ocala, FL)– Eyster transferred from Sante Fe College in Gainesville after his freshman year. He is a middle of the order hitter, who leads the team in batting average (.379), while collecting an OBP of .457. In 2019, he led the Gamecocks with a .309 batting average, while hitting 10 homeruns.
Wes Clarke (So. – Forest, VA) Clark played sparingly as a freshman, but has come around in his sophomore year. Clarke has started all 8 games at first base, and leads the team in homeruns (4) and RBI (14). He collected half of those totals in one game against Northwestern last Saturday.
Overall, Carolina has some good pieces but some are young. Noah Campbell, Andrew Eyster, and Wes Clarke, are three strong hitters which can do damage in a hurry.
The Gamecocks hit the JUCO and transfer markets hard this past year, picking up Dallas Beaver, Bryant Bowen, Noah Meyers Anthony Amicangelo, and Jeff Heinrich who we will all see this weekend. Bowen has hit 2 homeruns and Beaver is hitting .250, while starting 5 of 8 games.
Friday – Cameron Mlodzinski – (0.64 ERA, 14 IP, 2BB, 9K’s) Mlodzinki is a special pitcher and will be a early pick in the 2020 draft. I watched some of their game on Friday against Northwestern and he was impressive. He throws a lot of strikes and his misses are competitive. He’s doing that with a mid 90’s fastball that tails back into a righty, a great slider, and a good changeup. What makes him even tougher is he will throw any of those pitches in any count. His lack of strikeouts are a little surprising, but he’s been pitching to contact and is able to go deep in games.
Saturday – Thomas Farr (3.86 ERA, 4 2/3 IP, 2BB, 5K’S) Farr is taking over for Kerry in the Saturday game. Farr pitched against Presbyterian College and looked solid in his only outing of the year. He throws the ball straight over the top and has a downward trajectory on his fastball that makes it tough to hit. He also has a sharp 12-6 curve and will occasionally show a changeup. He didn’t have a walk issue against PC, but threw a lot of pitches way out of the strike zone and left some over the heart of the plate that PC didn’t take advantage of (they did hit a 2 run HR off of him).
Sunday – Brannon Jordan (1.64 ERA, 11IP, 3BB, 18K’S). Jordan has been very impressive in the early going. He’s fun to watch pitch. He works fast, throws in the mid 90’s, and has a good 12-6 curve that he locates effectively. He’s a junior college transfer so this is his first taste of this rivalry and he will be pitching at Clemson on Sunday.
USC’s bullpen consists of TJ Shook (4.0 IP, 0H, 10K, 0BB), Graham Lawson (4.0 IP, 1H, 8K, 4BB), Cam Tringali (3.0IP, 5H, 2K, 0BB), Parker Coyne (3IP, 3H 6K, 5BB), Daniel Lloyd (4.1IP, 2H, 5K, 3BB), John Gilreath (3.1IP, 4H, 6K,2BB), and Julian Bosnic (3.1IP,0H, 2K, 4BB). has
The pen has been a weakness for the Gamecocks, and is something Clemson has to exploit. They’ve struggled with walks and control at big moments in games. I think as a whole, their bullpen has good stuff but they haven’t put it all together yet. Let’s hope that stays the same for one more weekend.
What I’m Most Excited About
Mlodzinski vs Weatherly – This is a great matchup on the mound with two pitchers who will be in the bigs one day. If Weatherly can throw strikes like he did against Stony Brook, then Carolina is going to have a tough time hitting him. He can be virtually unhittable at times when he has everything working for him. Mlodzinksi is going to be equally tough as well for Clemson hitters. As I said earlier, he limits free passes and makes you earn everything you get. To summarize, this is a big-time pitching match up and I’m excited to be in Columbia tonight to watch it.
South Carolina’s Biggest Advantage
Hitting: I don’t think it’s a huge gap between the two teams, but South Carolina has had a few breakout games where they score large amounts of runs.
They’ve scored over 9 runs in four of their games (a lot was aided by errors against Holy Cross). They have some big guys that can hit for power in their order, which Clemson doesn’t right now. However, they also drop off at a certain point in the order, exactly like Clemson. To summarize, they’re 2-5 hitters can leave the ballpark at any time, and Clemson hasn’t shown the ability to do that.
Clemson’s Biggest Advantage
Bullpen – South Carolina has good starting pitching. Mlodzinki and Jordan are the real deal and I’m impressed with them after going through a few of their starts. Their bullpen leaves a lot to be desired and Clemson’s has been very impressive in the early going.
Clemson feels good going to their closer, while Carolina fans will be anxious in the late innings. Clemson needs to get into the pen and get into it early. They need to work counts. It’s still early in the season so I would imagine Gamecock pitching would be on pitch counts but the earlier they can get into that pen, the better for Clemson.
Key Player for Clemson
Hackenberg– Hack was just 1-11 last week and he needs to be better. He had a promising first weekend, but is already at 10 strikeouts, which leads the team. He did come through with a big hit in Wednesdays loss, but he can’t have another 0-9 weekend, similar to last weekend and expect to be successful.
He’s also got to do a great job at handling this Clemson pitching staff. Friday and Saturday will both see “pro-carolina” crowds at the ballpark, and he needs to be able to keep a young pitching staff relaxed and engaged.
What I’m watching
Clemson Lineup – I’m interested to see what Monte does with the order this weekend. Clemson’s going to see three straight righty’s, which is different from what they’ve seen thus far. Monte loves playing matchups, but Clemson doesn’t have any options from the left side of the plate.
I’m very interested to see where Davis Sharpe fits in this lineup and I think he has to hit in all 3 games for Clemson to have a chance here. James Parker will be a welcomed addition back in the lineup too. I would expect things to go back to normal and you see Parker, Hackenberg, and Sharpe at 3-4-5, but would love to see Sharpe, Parker, Hackenberg. This lineup makes 4 out of your first 5 hitters righties, which isn’t a great matchup, but I don’t see other viable options.
These are two teams with great starting pitching, and I think we will see low scoring games throughout the weekend. Friday night in Columbia will be a tough one and is a tough matchup for Clemson. I think Clemson’s best chances are to win Saturday (I think this game is in Clemson’s favor) and win game 3 on Sunday. Anything can happen once you get into South Carolina’s bullpen and I think that’s a area Clemson can expose at the end of games. James Parker is back in the lineup and brings you some pop.
Also, Clemson has played a little tougher competition than South Carolina has. Holy Cross is just a bad baseball team. Northwestern hadn’t been outside since baseball season started and they came into Columbia and took 2-3 from the Gamecocks. Clemson played 2 teams that won their conferences last year and is more battle tested in close games. So, that being said, let’s go with Clemson taking 2 out of 3.