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Preview: South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt in SEC Home Opener

By Sinderella

South Carolina brings in #4 Vanderbilt on Friday to Founders Park for their SEC home opener. Vanderbilt moved up in our College Baseball Central poll after an extremely impressive series sweep over then #17 Auburn, who is now #23, while also riding a 14 game win streak.

South Carolina just lost its SEC opening series versus Ole Miss, a team many had near the bottom of the SEC, but after dropping the first two, the Gamecocks rebounded and looked very good during game three of the Ole Miss series, and again in their midweek at a neutral site versus an underrated USC Upstate team.

Vanderbilt looks to continue to impress with a road SEC series win, while South Carolina tries to build on their great offensive performances in their last two games.

Vanderbilt's offense is built to put pressure on the pitcher and catcher all game long, with their great contact hitting and insane amount of speed. Vanderbilt is one of the top teams in the country in both batting average and stolen bases. Virtually the entire Commodore lineup hits above .300 with the lone exception still nearby at .286.

Almost all of them will also steal bases, but far and away, the top two guys are RJ Austin and Calvin Hewett, who have combined for 29 stolen bases on 33 attempts. This lineup doesn't hit for much power and they don't walk a lot, either. If Vandy is hot, they are hitting for singles, doubles, and stealing a bunch of bases. They can get cold and when that happens, it looks rough.

Vanderbilt's pitching is pretty good, as their starting rotation of Carter Holton, Bryce Cunningham, and Devin Futrell are a combined 8-0 on the season. They don't seem to have the usual big-time pitcher such as Kumar Rocker, Jack Leiter, Sonny Gray, or Walker Buhler, but this rotation is still one of the best in the SEC so far this season. The bullpen is equally as good, but they do have some pitchers South Carolina should be able to take advantage of, and they have to if they want to win this series.

Vanderbilt is a tall task for this South Carolina team that has struggled at times with defense and making contact. They have looked better over the past two games, and the series is at Founders Park. I don't know if this is my optimistic side influencing the realistic approach I usually try to follow here, but I'm inclined to believe South Carolina may have figured something out offensively. I have South Carolina winning game one and stealing game three in some way weird way for a 2-1 series win.

(All pictures courtesy of @VandyBoys on X)

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