Coming off their most successful weekend of the season in which they took 2 of 3 from Texas A&M, the Tigers will look to keep the momentum going against an even more dangerous South Carolina (19-8, 6-3) team.
Much like last week, the Tigers will be facing a very power-oriented offense. South Carolina leads the SEC in home runs with 45, and unlike A&M, they strike out a lot less. However, despite hitting tons of bombs, the Gamecocks aren’t necessarily a high-scoring offense. They are heavily reliant on hitting the ball out of the ballpark and can sometimes struggle to manufacture runs.
Despite this flaw in their offense, no one can deny that this Gamecock team is talented and should be in contention to “host” an NCAA regional at the end of the season. Their leader is undoubtedly Wes Clarke, the big bat in the lineup who leads the SEC in HR with 15 this year. For comparison’s sake, Mizzou’s entire team has 20. Clarke also is slashing .309/.460/ .809, and his SLG% leads the SEC. If you can slow down Clarke, that’s how you have success against South Carolina. If you can’t, good luck trying to win against this crew.
Clarke isn’t the only hitter the Tigers have to worry about, however. Clarke hits cleanup typically, and the three hitters before him are all handfuls in their own right. CF Brady Allen leads off, and his .986 OPS and 8 HR atop the batting order prove just how dangerous this powerful lineup is. After Allen, 2B Braylen Wimmer leads the team in AVG and, while he doesn’t have the power that many of his teammates do, he still does his job by going gap-to-gap with 10 doubles this year. Finally, the last obstacle before facing Clarke is LF Josiah Sightler. With a .929 OPS, Sightler holds down the 3-hole well and makes sure there are no breaks before Clarke.
The bottom of Gamecock lineup is serviceable as well, but the top four do most of the heavy lifting for this offense. Here’s what the regulars of this Gamecock lineup have done this season:
South Carolina has had an average staff all year by SEC standards, but staffs like that have still posed problems for this Mizzou team.
Thomas Farr has been the undisputed Ace and Friday night starter for the Gamecocks this year, and currently leads the team with 39.1 innings and has a 2.97 ERA. He also is averaging 11.9 K/9 while walking just 12 batters in almost 40 innings. Typically, he doesn’t go deep in games, but 6 IP and 1 ER is a very common outing for Farr.
As far as recent production goes, Farr has been very solid apart from one poor outing against Florida. If the Tigers are going to have any chance to beat him on Friday night, it’s going to take a great pitching performance on Mizzou’s end because it’s unlikely that Farr’s consistency will fail him now.
Brannon Jordan will get the ball on Saturday for South Carolina, and his start might give Missouri their best chance to rough up the Gamecocks’ starting pitching, but it also might be the toughest starter the Tigers face in the series. Why? Jordan is the most inconsistent of the three starters the Gamecocks have. So, you might see 7 shutout innings with 9 K like he did against Florida, or you might see 4 innings and 3 ER like he had against Dayton.
Jordan has a respectable 3.19 ERA on the year, leads the team in strikeouts, and has the lowest BAA, but he’s most susceptible to a blowout start, having surrendered the most hits, doubles, and home runs of the staff.
Which Jordan the Tigers see will be up in the air. The only thing for certain is he will punch a lot of hitters out, and he’s prone to walking 3-4 batters per start. If the Tigers can find barrels, they can give themselves a great chance to go into Sunday with some momentum.
In the finale of the series, the Tigers will square up with Will Sanders, the pitcher with perhaps the most potential on the whole squad. Sanders is only a freshman, but he’s quickly earning his stripes in the SEC. As the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, teams are learning that he’s no slouch on Sundays.
On the season, Sanders sports a dazzlingly low 2.22 ERA in 28.1 IP. Unlike the previous two weekend starters, Sanders doesn’t strikeout a lot of batters, and specializes in pitching to contact. While he has only just recently cemented himself as a weekend starter, Sanders has shown great promise in that role. In his last start against Georgia, Sanders went 8IP and gave up just 1 ER on 90 pitches, proving just how efficient he can be against elite competition.
To capitalize on Sunday, the Tigers will need to put Sanders in high-leverage situations often to capitalize on his youth and inexperience; otherwise Sanders could continue to stay hot and mow down Tiger hitters.
*Note* I would typically add some highlights of the pitchers, but South Carolina Baseball’s twitter has posted almost no pitching highlights for some reason.
This will be a tougher series than last week, but the Gamecocks are still a beatable foe. If the Tigers can keep them in the ballpark, Mizzou will have a great chance to pull off an upset.
With the pitching being good, but not spectacular, the Gamecocks provide an opportunity to build on some previous momentum from the Texas A&M series and stay hot.
Winning 1 of 3 would probably be a satisfactory result to this series and taking 2 of 3 would be excellent. It’s still TBD on how the Tigers will perform on the road in SEC play, but who knows what Mizzou will be capable of with their inconsistent play throughout this year.
Friday | 6 pm | SEC Network +
Saturday | 3pm | SEC Network
Sunday | 11 am | SEC Network