Last season, Arkansas came to Carolina Stadium and swept a three-game series from the Gamecocks. USC coach Chad Holbrook hopes to avoid that fate at Baum Stadium starting Friday.
But he looks at the Razorbacks pitching rotation of left-hander Jalen Beeks and right-handers Trey Killian and Chris Oliver and their combined ERA of 2.08 and worries about running into a buzz saw again.
Their pitching staff is as good as we will have faced. Their numbers are incredible. Were going to have a difficult time scoring. Its going to be a great challenge, Holbrook said. They have the best stuff we see. Its right there with Vanderbilt as far as mid-90s, lefties, righties, power sliders, power breaking balls. They can overpower you.
He doesnt have any pleasant memories of the three Arkansas wins last season by scores of 15-3, 4-2 and 5-3.
Its a lot similar to what we faced last year, Holbrook said. They overmatched us a little bit here. Our guys understand that, and they know what theyre up against.
He expects to utilize more of a small-ball offensive approach this weekend, which could mean more sacrifice bunts, more hit-and-run plays, and more stolen-base attempts as he anticipates a trio of low-scoring games. Of course, USCs pitching staff is pretty good, too, with an ERA of 1.69 over 256 innings this season.
Our pitchers are going to have to do what theyve been doing, as well, to keep us in the game, he said.
Although catcher Grayson Greiner and second baseman Max Schrock still arent 100 percent because of nagging injuries, Holbrook expects both to man their usual positions against the Razorbacks. Despite the injuries Greiner has a bruised catching thumb and Schrock steadily recovers from an ankle sprain both have continued to provide their share of clutch hits in recent weeks.
... In an always-intense series, the Gamecocks have won nine-of-15 games against the Razorbacks dating to the start of the 2010 season. They met three times in the 2012 College World Series, with USC winning twice.
Freshman middle reliever Reed Scott has come up huge in SEC play. He threw six shutout innings against both Ole Miss and Tennessee, which allowed the Gamecocks to come back and win both games.