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South Carolina/Alabama Series Preview

Image courtesy of @GamecockBasebll on X/Twitter

Two teams coming off opposite sides of a sweep face off in Tuscaloosa as South Carolina takes on Alabama. The Crimson Tide have started off SEC play with a home series win over Tennessee before getting swept on the road at Georgia. The Gamecocks will be walking into a hostile environment against a good team that needs to win. It's a dangerous spot, and with a potent offense led by TJ McCants, Gage Miller, Justin Lebron, and Bryce Elbin, Gamecock pitchers will need to be locked in from the first pitch to the last.

Rotation Matchups:

Thursday- Eli Jones (2-0, 2.53) vs. Zane Adams (2-1, 4.26)

Friday- Dylan Eskew (2-2, 3.81) vs. Ben Hess (3-1, 5.11)

Saturday- Tyler Pitzer (4-0, .48) vs. Greg Farone (3-0, 2.49)

When evaluating Alabama's pitching staff, the surplus of velocity jumps off the page immediately. The Crimson Tide have more than a few guys who light up the radar gun and rack up strikeouts. Unfortunately for the Tide, they have lost several key arms to injury this season as well. Riley Quick is the big name who is out for the year after needing Tommy-John, but this pitching staff is deep enough to compete without him. Alton Davis II is a certified weapon out of the bullpen. The lefthander will reach mid-to-upper 90s with his fastball while also being able to extend multiple innings. If I am a Gamecock fan, I want to see Davis as little as possible. In order to do that, the offense will need to jump on Alabama's starting pitching. Hess has the best raw stuff of the starters, but he has struggled with pitch execution over the past few weekends, either missing the strike zone or missing over the heart of the plate. If Hess can lock it in on Friday, South Carolina will be in for a tough Game 2. Both Adams and Farone miss bats with much less frequency than Hess, who has 40 Ks in 24.2 innings, so it will be interesting to see if South Carolina's approach is any different facing Adams/Farone and Hess.

I am not one for predicting series outcomes, but I will tell you what needs to happen for South Carolina to win the series. First, they must continue to take the bad pitches while swinging at the good ones. It sounds simple, but the Gamecock offense was too passive the first two games in Oxford two weekends ago. Hitters punished early mistakes against Vandy without chasing, which led to several big innings. Second, Gamecock pitching needs to limit free passes. Alabama is going to get hits. Their team average is .324 entering the weekend. Giving this offense extra baserunners will haunt the Gamecocks. Make them earn their runs, don't give any away. Third, and most important of all, South Carolina needs to create a couple runs each game without the long ball. They will need to string together some hits, steal a base or two, and have some clutch 2-out hitting if they want to walk out of Tuscaloosa with a series win. It is going to be a fun one this Easter weekend. Let's play ball.

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