USC Closes Out SEC Slate At Alabama

2016 Opening Day USC Huddle
COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) — South Carolina (39-13, 17-9 SEC) closes out the SEC slate this weekend with a three-game series at Alabama (31-21, 15-12 SEC). First pitch for the opener on Thursday is 8 p.m. ET with Friday’s contest also at 8 p.m. ET. Saturday’s series finale is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network Plus and can be heard on the Gamecock IMG Network including flagship station, 107.5 FM, “The Game.”

RANKINGS

South Carolina is ranked No. 6 by Collegiate Baseball, No. 8 by Perfect Game, No. 10 by Baseball America and the NCBWA and No. 11 by D1Baseball.

PROBABLE PITCHING ROTATION

Thursday
South Carolina – Clarke Schmidt (So. RHP) 9-2, 2.46 ERA, 91.1 IP, 17 BB, 102 SO
Alabama – Geoffrey Bramblett (Jr. RHP) 5-3, 2.71 ERA, 79.2 IP, 28 BB, 67 SO

Friday
South Carolina – Braden Webb (Fr. RHP) 9-4, 3.48 ERA, 77.2 IP, 40 BB, 100 SO
Alabama – Jake Walters (So. RHP) 5-3, 2.03 ERA, 75.1 IP, 29 BB, 76 SO

Saturday
South Carolina – Adam Hill (Fr. RHP) 6-0, 3.18 ERA, 56.2 IP, 22 BB, 66 SO
Alabama – TBA

LOOKING BACK

South Carolina went 2-2 this past week with wins over Presbyterian and Texas A&M. The Gamecocks are 38-13 and 17-9 in the SEC. The Gamecocks are in fourth place, but just one game back of Florida for first place in the SEC.

CONE LEADS IT OFF

Junior outfielder Gene Cone continues to lead the Gamecocks in hitting with a .359 average (60-for-167) with 21 RBI and 42 runs scored as well as a .471 on-base percentage and a .503 slugging mark. Cone ranks second in the SEC in on-base percentage and sixth in batting average.

Cone has saved his best for league play as he has hit .417 (40-for-96) in 26 SEC games with 12 RBI and 29 runs scored. He has 25 walks to eight strikeouts and leads the SEC with a .540 on-base percentage in SEC games. His 29 runs scored in league games are the most by a SEC player this season. He is second in batting, fourth in slugging and sixth in hits. Cone was 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored in the 10-7 win over Texas A&M.

Cone’s school record hitting streak ended at 31 games in the 6-0 loss at Kentucky. Cone’s hitting streak is the longest in Division I baseball this year with his 34-game streak of reaching base safely the longest mark in SEC play.

During the 31-game hitting streak, Cone hit .402 (49-for-122) with 18 RBI, 33 runs scored, 11 doubles, two triples and three homers. His on-base percentage during the streak was .497 with a .598 slugging mark.

Cone earned National Player of the Week honors by Collegiate Baseball as well as SEC Player of the Week accolades for his performance in the Missouri series.

Cone went 10-for-12 (.833) at the plate this weekend in a sweep of Missouri with six RBI and seven runs scored. Cone capped the weekend going 5-for-5, just a homer shy of the cycle and drove in three runs in the 9-2 victory over Missouri while setting a school record with a 27-game hitting streak, surpassing the previous mark of 26 set by Whit Merrifield in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He was 3-for-4 with two runs scored with three RBI including a key two-out two-run double to give the Gamecocks the lead for good in Friday’s 8-5 win over the Tigers. He was also 2-for-3 with two runs scored in the 5-1 win over Missouri.

Cone’s 10 hits were the most in a weekend series by a Gamecock player since Christian Walker went 10-for-11 at Mississippi State April 22-24 and the most ever by a Gamecock player in Founders Park history (dating back to 2009).

SCHMIDT & WEBB NAMED TO GOLDEN SPIKES AWARD WATCH LIST

South Carolina sophomore right-hander Clarke Schmidt and freshman right-hander Braden Webb are two of 60 players named to USA Baseball’s 60-player midseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List as announced on Wednesday April 13.

Sponsored by Major League Baseball and presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the 39th Golden Spikes Award will be presented on June 30 in Los Angeles. ESPN will once again serve as the programming sponsor for the Golden Spikes Award.

On Wednesday, June 1, USA Baseball will announce the semifinalists for the 2016 Golden Spikes Award. The list of semifinalists will be sent to a voting body consisting of past USA Baseball National Team coaches and press officers, members of the media that follow amateur baseball closely, select professional baseball personnel, current USA Baseball staff and the 38 previous winners of the award, representing a group of more than 200 voters. Amateur baseball fans across the country will be able to vote for their favorite semifinalists at GoldenSpikesAward.com from June 1-8. On Monday, June 13, USA Baseball will announce the finalists for the award, and fan voting will once again commence that same day. Fan voting for the finalists will end on Saturday, June 25.

SCHMIDT WITH SUCCESS

Sophomore right-hander Clarke Schmidt pitched well despite a loss in the 3-0 defeat to Texas A&M on Friday night. Schmidt allowed three runs on five hits in 7.2 innings with two walks and four strikeouts.

Schmidt continues to be among the top pitchers in the conference as he is 9-2 with a 2.46 ERA. He has allowed 30 runs, 25 earned, on 80 hits in 91.1 innings pitched. He has 102 strikeouts to just 17 walks with opponents batting .233 against him. He became the first Gamecock pitcher since Michael Roth in 2011 to reach the single-season 100 strikeout total. Schmidt leads the SEC with his 102 strikeouts, is second in innings pitched, tied for third in wins and seventh in ERA.

Schmidt has been strong in SEC games with a 5-2 record and a 3.43 ERA in the league. He has 70 strikeouts in 63.0 innings pitched in the league. His 70 league strikeouts is second-best among the league pitchers with his win-total tied for fifth-most and earned run average ranking 14th in the conference.

Schmidt was named National Co-Pitcher of the Month for March by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). Schmidt won four games last month and struck out 46 batters in 37.0 innings pitched with a 2.19 ERA. Founded in 1962, the NCBWA is dedicated to the advancement of college baseball. Membership is open to writers, broadcasters and publicists of the sport.

WEBB WORKS HIS MAGIC

Despite a loss on Saturday vs. Texas A&M, freshman right-hander Braden Webb continues to be among the top pitchers in the SEC. Webb allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits in 5.2 innings with two walks and seven strikeouts. Webb is 9-4 with a 3.48 ERA. He has allowed 36 runs, 30 earned, on 58 hits in 77.2 innings pitched. He also reached the single-season 100 strikeout total and has 100 strikeouts to 40 walks. Opponents are batting .206 against him. Webb is tied with teammate Clarke Schmidt for third in the SEC in wins and is right behind him in strikeouts at second in the league. He is sixth in opposing batting average.

In SEC games, Webb is 6-3 with a 4.06 ERA and has 79 strikeouts in 57.2 innings with opponents batting .226 against him in league play. Webb’s six wins ties him with Logan Shore and Alex Faedo of Florida and Dakota Hudson of Mississippi State with the most victories in league play. His 79 strikeouts are also the most by a SEC pitcher in league contests.

Webb earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the third time this season after earning a win in a 2-1 victory over Florida. Webb allowed just one run on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in 7.1 innings vs. the Gators.

His second Freshman of the Week honor came after he struck out 11 batters in eight scoreless innings and limited third ranked Vanderbilt to just two hits in a 4-0 win. Webb was masterful not allowing a hit until a two-out double in the sixth inning and just two in the contest. Webb’s eight innings tied a season-high for innings pitched that he set at Ole Miss.

Webb was also National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball and SEC Freshman of the Week for a first time in his performance at Ole Miss. In the Ole Miss game, after allowing three consecutive base runners to reach with one out in the first inning, Webb retired 17 in a row and 23 of 25 at one stretch to help lead the Gamecocks to victory. Webb’s 14 strikeouts were the most by a Gamecock since Billy Buckner struck out 16 on March 6, 2004 vs. Clemson and one short of the school’s freshman record of 15 set by Brian Williams on May 29, 1988 vs. Georgia Tech.

MORE ON SCHMIDT & WEBB

Both Webb and Schmidt’s SEC numbers are some of the best in school history. Webb’s six wins in league play are tied for sixth-highest in school history and are the most by a Gamecock pitcher since Michael Roth went 6-3 in the 2011 season.

LEAGUE HONORS

A Gamecock has earned a weekly honor from the SEC eight times this year. Along with Webb’s three Freshman of the Week honors, John Jones was SEC Co-Player of the Week on February 29 and SEC Player of the Week on March 21, Clarke Schmidt earned SEC Pitcher of the Week on March 7, Adam Hill was SEC Freshman of the Week on March 14 and Gene Cone was SEC Player of the Week on April 25.

DYNAMIC DESTINO

Sophomore outfielder Alex Destino went 2-for-2 and reached base in all four plate appearances with three runs scored in the 16-4 win over The Citadel. Destino is second on the team in hitting with a .341 average (63-for-185). He has a team-high eight homers, 49 RBI and a .535 slugging percentage. Destino ranks tied for eighth in the SEC in RBI.

Destino’s top games this year included going 5-for-5 with four RBI in an 8-1 win vs. Clemson and 3-for-6 with a double, two homers, two runs and a career-high seven RBI in a 16-5 win over Penn State.

HILL ON THE MOUND

Freshman right-hander Adam is 6-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He has allowed 20 runs, all earned, on 43 hits in 56.2 innings. He has 66 strikeouts to 22 walks; opponents are batting .214 against him.

Hill was named SEC Freshman of the Week after winning a pair of games the week of March 7-13 to improve to 4-0 on the year. In a predetermined split on March 8, Hill went three innings and allowed one run on three hits with no walks and five strikeouts in a 7-1 win over Wofford. He followed that up with 5.1 scoreless innings in March 13th’s 2-0 win over Charleston Southern. Hill allowed just four hits and one walk while striking out eight in the victory over CSU.

MOONEY IN THE MIDDLE

Senior infielder Marcus Mooney was 2-for-3, hit by a pitch twice, drove in a run and scored a run in Sunday’s 10-7 win over Texas A&M. Mooney is fourth on the Gamecocks in hitting with a .313 average (50-for-160) with 25 RBI and 32 runs scored. Mooney owns a .417 on-base percentage as well.

REAGAN FROM THE LEFT

Junior left-hander Josh Reagan worked 4.1 innings of relief and allowed two runs on three hits with four walks and two strikeouts to pick up the victory in Sunday’s 10-7 win over Texas A&M. It was Reagan’s second-longest stint of the season.

He is 2-2 with 11 saves and a 1.67 ERA in 24 relief appearances. Reagan has allowed eight runs on 24 hits in 43.0 innings with 38 strikeouts and 15 walks. He is tied for first in the SEC in saves and tied for sixth in appearances.

Reagan is on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Midseason Watch List. In addition, he, Schmidt & Webb have been named to College Baseball Hall of Fame’s National Pitcher of the Year Award Watch List.

JONAH WITH A JOLT

Sophomore infielder Jonah Bride is one of two Gamecocks alongside teammate Dom Thompson-Williams, who has started all 52 games this year. Bride had a career night on Tuesday vs. The Citadel going 4-for-5 with two doubles and five RBI in the 16-4 win. He is hitting .280 (52-for-185) with 26 RBI and 37 runs scored. He is second in the SEC with 17 hit by pitches on the year.

DTW

Junior outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams had his first multi-homer game of his career in Sunday’s 10-7 win over Texas A&M. Thompson-Williams reached base in all five plate appearances going 3-for-3 with two walks, three RBI and four runs scored.

He is now hitting .326 (62-for-190) with 14 doubles, three triples, six homers, 36 RBI and 45 runs scored. He has a .429 on-base percentage and a .526 slugging mark. Thompson-Williams ranks ninth in the SEC in runs scored and tied for 12th in doubles. He leads Carolina with a team-high 18 multi-hit games and is tied for second with 11 multi-RBI contests.

Thompson-Williams tied a school record with three doubles and added a triple to go along with three RBI in a 14-4 win at Furman.

CULLEN CATCHING ON

Freshman catcher Chris Cullen tied a career-high in hits going 3-for-4 with a double in the 10-5 win over Kentucky. He was 3-for-4 with his first career homer, two doubles, a run scored and two RBI in a 5-4 loss to Florida. Cullen has raised his season average to .260 (33-for-127) with 14 runs scored and 21 RBI. He also owns 10 doubles on the year.

JOHNSON BRINGS THE HEAT

Sophomore right-hander Tyler Johnson struck out the lone batter he faced in Sunday’s 10-7 win to earn his sixth save of the season. Johnson has 39 strikeouts in 35.2 innings with opponents batting .198 against him. Five of his six saves have come in SEC play, fourth-best in the conference.

TJ

Freshman outfielder TJ Hopkins is hitting .321 (27-for-84) with 19 runs scored and 19 RBI in 33 games played with 23 starts.

Hopkins was 4-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored as well as a double and two stolen bases in the 14-4 win over Furman. Hopkins’ four hits were a season-high. He would also go 3-for-5 with two runs scored, two stolen bases and three RBI in the 9-2 victory over Missouri.

Hopkins’ diving catch in right-center in the 10-6 loss at Vanderbilt was the No. 6 Play of the Day on ESPN”s SportsCenter. Hopkins went 2-for-4 in a 4-0 win at Ole Miss and made eight putouts in the outfield, one short of single-game school record by an outfielder. He tied a single-game school record with two outfield assists on Opening Day. vs. Albany.

MR. JONES

Sophomore catcher John Jones is hitting .281 (52-for-185) with 35 runs scored, 10 doubles, six homers and 41 RBI. He is at a .396 on-base percentage and a .432 slugging percentage. Jones’ 39 RBI is second-best on the team.

Jones was named SEC Player of the Week on March 21 after hitting .500 (7-for-14) in the Arkansas series with a pair of game-winning home runs as well as eight runs batted in. Jones opened the series going 3-for-5 with a pair of run scored and a RBI in the 10-6 win. He followed that up with a two-run homer to break a 2-2 tied in the 6-2 win over Arkansas on Saturday. Jones capped the weekend off going 3-for-5 with a double and a game-winning three-rum homer in the bottom of the eighth inning that lifted Carolina to an 8-6 victory vs. the Razorbacks. Jones’ five RBIs in Sunday’s contest was a career-high as well.

That was Jones’ second conference award of the year as he was also Co-Player of the Week on February 29 after the Penn State series. Jones earned National Player of the Week honors from Collegiate Baseball and SEC Co-Player of the Week after putting together arguably one of the greatest weekends at the plate in school history in the Penn State series. Jones reached base in all 14 plate appearances vs. Penn State batting 1.000 (8-for-8) with six walks for an OBP of 1.000 as well. Jones went 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBI in a 7-1 series-opening win vs. the Nittany Lions. He followed that up with a grand slam and tying a single-game school record with four walks in Saturday’s 16-5 victory vs. Penn State. In the series finale, Jones went 3-for-3 including a two-run single and a walk in the 4-2 win to sweep the series vs. Penn State. Jones’ slugging percentage for the weekend was 1.750 also.

In records going back to 1997, Jones is the only Gamecock in school history to start three games in a series and put up a 1.000 OBP, besting the previous mark of .875 set by Christian Walker in 2011 at Mississippi State as well as Walker’s .909 batting average (10-for-11). Jones’ six walks tied for the most by a Gamecock in a series since Scott Wingo’s six walks vs. Brown in 2010. Jones’ 10 RBI are the most by a Gamecock in a series since LB Dantzler drove in 10 vs. Albany vs. 2013. Jones’ 1.750 slugging percentage is the best in a series since Steven Neff’s 2.000 slugging mark vs. Arkansas in 2011.

GREAT SCOTT

Junior right-hander Reed Scott had a pair of quality relief outings in Friday and Saturday’s games vs. Texas A&M. Scott pitched 1.1 perfect innings on Friday night and followed that up Saturday allowing just one run on two hits in 3.1 innings.

He also struck out all four batters he faced for his second save of the season in the 3-1 win over Presbyterian.

Scott is 3-1 with a 2.87 ERA in 24 relief appearances and a pair of saves. He has allowed 12 runs on 33 hits in 37.2 innings.

DC DELIVERS

Senior infielder DC Arendas hit his first career grand slam in the 16-4 win over The Citadel. Arendas owns a .328 on-base percentage.

Arendas has been stellar defensively in 48 games with 32 starts as he is fielding .987 with just two errors (one at shortstop, one at second base) in 154 chances with 60 putouts and 92 assists.

WIDENER

Junior right-hander Taylor Widener struck out a career-high 12 batters in his longest stint at Carolina with just one run allowed in 7.2 innings of work in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Presbyterian. Widener also earned a victory in his previous appearance, a 4-1 victory over USC Upstate with 3.2 scoreless innings of work. Widener retired 11 batters in a row before allowing a walk and struck out four batters. Widener won his first game of the season in a 4-2 win over Coastal Carolina on April 5 when he allowed two runs on two hits in five-plus innings with a walk and five strikeouts.

Widener is 3-2 with a 3.95 ERA in 43.1 innings with 50 strikeouts. Opponents are batting .228 against him.

LT

Freshman infielder LT Tolbert hit a homer and added a sac fly in the 10-5 win at Kentucky. Tolbert drove in a team-high four runs in the series vs. Tennessee as well. Tolbert is hitting .215 (38-for-177) with 24 RBI, 26 runs scored and a .288 on-base percentage.

STOKES RETURNS

Sophomore infielder Madison Stokes hit his first career homer in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Texas A&M. Stokes is batting .254 (15-for-59) with six RBI and seven runs scored in 19 games played with 17 starts after missing the first half of the regular season with a Jones Fracture in his foot.

SUPERLATIVES

South Carolina has outscored its opponents this year 325-192 including 73-33 in the first two innings of play. The Gamecocks are 29-4 on the year when scoring first and 17-3 when scoring in the first inning. South Carolina is 27-3 when out-hitting its opponent and 21-5 when hitting at least one home run. The Gamecocks are 35-1 when leading after the sixth inning. South Carolina is 16-8 in games decided by three runs or less. Carolina has reached double-digits in hits in 22 games this year with a 21-1 record with 10 hits or more.

TO ARMS

The Gamecocks own a team ERA of 3.28 on the year, fourth-best in the SEC with a .223 opponents batting average that is best in the SEC. South Carolina has allowed 192 runs, 170 earned, on 385 hits with 173 walks to 500 strikeouts in 467.0 innings pitched.

AT THE PLATE & ON THE FIELD

South Carolina is sixth in the SEC in hitting with a team average of .285 (492-for-1728) as well as a .378 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage. The Gamecocks have hit 36 homers. Carolina is fielding .980 as a team with just 38 errors on the year, second-best in the conference.

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