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NCAA Regional Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks

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The 3 seed Hoos will face off with the Gamecocks on Friday afternoon

Syndication: Greenville BART BOATWRIGHT/Staff/File

For the first time since the 2011 College World Series, the Virginia Cavaliers will face off with the South Carolina Gamecocks. Many will remember the epic duel between the two power houses that went 13 innings, saw Danny Hultzen strike out the world before succumbing to sickness, and the Gamecocks overcome the Hoos 3-2. South Carolina would go on to win their second straight NCAA title while it would take UVA two more seasons before they would get back to Omaha.

Both programs have taken a minor step back from the early 2010 teams that were perennial favorites to get to the College World Series. South Carolina has not been back to Omaha since 2012 and only made the NCAA Tournament once since 2016.

Though they are not the No. 1 seed in the Columbia Regional, South Carolina will host this weekend due to Old Dominion not bidding to host a regional when the NCAA called for bids earlier in the season. Due to COVID, the NCAA backed itself in a corner and named 20 regional sites about a month ago.

By UofSC fan expectations, the 2021 season was probably a bit of a disappointment. They entered the season No. 18 in the D1Baseball preseason poll, but have since fallen out after climbing into the top ten midway through the season.

Though they amassed a 33-21 overall record, they ran into tough competition through the SEC while putting together a 16-15 record in the conference including a 9-3 loss to Alabama in the SEC tournament last week.

Assuming the Gamecocks stick to their normal rotation, they will run out their Friday night starter, Brannon Jordan who put together a 5-5 record and 4.37 ERA in 14 games this year. Though he struck out 93 in 70 innings, he features a 1.44 WHIP, but did hold opponents to just a .194 average. In his last outing against Tennessee two weeks ago he surrendered 7 runs on six hits and four walks over just 3.2 innings; his shortest appearance of the season. He struggled late into the season and has not lasted more than six innings since early April.

The Gamecocks’ bullpen has been a strong suit where they will rely on So. Julian Bosnic, Jr. Daniel Lloyd, and Jr. Andrew Peters. All three feature ERAs in the 3s and have appeared in more than 19 of the UofSC games this season. Bosnic is a strike out machine having struck out 72 batters in 44 innings and holding opponents to a .123 average.

At the plate, UVA and the Gamecocks have put up similar team-wide numbers. UofSC has a .250 average, .437 slugging, and .348 on base percentage while striking out 510 times. UVA on the other hand has a .261 average, .381 slugging, and a .352 on base percentage while only striking out 367 times. The glaring difference between the two offenses, and where the Gamecocks’ advantage in their slugging comes from is the home run differential with UofSC having 78 home runs to UVA’s 35.

The Gamecocks are lead by Second Team All-SEC member Wes Clarke, who is tied for the national home run crown with 22 and is batting .275 while leading the Gamecocks in runs scored (54), RBI (53), slugging (.667), and on base percentage (.433). He is 2 off the team lead in strikeouts as well, so big tree fall hard.

Elsewhere in the lineup features Jr. OF Brady Allen, who was 12-12 in stolen base attempts this year and features a .284 average. The average leader for UofSC is Sr. OF Andrew Eyster whose .287 average is the team best, but he also hit 11 home runs and had 42 RBI this season.

UVA should be able to score against the Gamecocks. The bigger matchup will be UVA’s pitching against UofSC’s hitting. Should Coach O’Connor start Andrew Abbott, the All-American should be able to rack up strikeouts and hold the Gamecocks in check. Messinger, Vasil, or Savino could all have similar success, but are obviously not as Abbott.