Mark Kingston previews South Carolina baseball’s series with Tennessee
Who: South Carolina (15-6, 0-3 SEC) vs. Tennessee (18-4, 0-3 SEC)
Where: Lindsey Nelson Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Listen: 107.5 FM in Columbia
Starting pitchers (Game 1): USC — Fr. RHP Wesley Sweatt (1-1, 3.45 ERA); Tenn. — Jr. RHP Garrett Stallings (4-1, 1.27 ERA)
Starting pitchers (Game 2): USC — Jr. RHP Reid Morgan (2-0, 2.70 ERA); Tenn. — Jr. RHP Zach Linginfelter (4-1, 1.88 ERA)
Starting pitchers (Game 3): USC — TBA; Tenn. — Sr. RHP Will Neely (2-1, 5.79 ERA)
Injury report: Sophomore second baseman Noah Campbell remains limited by a shoulder injury he suffered last weekend against Georgia. He is “100 percent” able to hit but not healthy enough to play the field and will likely DH as a result, according to head coach Mark Kingston.
Junior closer Sawyer Bridges has a “weird” injury that the coaching staff is struggling to diagnose and treat, Kingston said.
“Some days his arm feels good, sometimes it doesn’t He’s healthy for the most part, it’s just sometimes there’s life in the arm, sometimes there’s not,” Kingston said.
Senior reliever Ridge Chapman (forearm strain) and sophomore starter Carmen Mlodzinski (broken foot) will remain sidelined for at least four more weeks.
Power pitching again: Last weekend, Georgia’s pitching blew by South Carolina’s hitters with plenty of velocity. Kingston expects more of the same from Tennessee, which ranks third nationally in ERA, eighth in WHIP and 16th in strikeouts per nine innings.
In preparation for the Vols, Kingston said he’s fallen back on one of last year’s most talked-about training tools — South Carolina’s pitching machines, which can pump in batting practice at 92 to 94 mph.
“I’ll refer back to challenging them with the machines,” Kingston said. “We went through the same thing last year where the guys had to start to ramp it up and we’ll do the same thing this year. We’ll get them challenged on those machines. If you’re gonna hit 95 in a game, you’re going to have to prepare for that in practice.”
Tennessee’s growth: The Gamecocks swept UT at home last season, holding the Volunteers to six runs across three games. That Tennessee team went on to finish 29-27, 12-18 in SEC play.
This year’s squad is currently 18-4 and was ranked by every major poll before being swept by Auburn this past weekend. Coach Tony Vitello has a scrappy lineup averaging 6.63 runs per game, a veteran pitching staff that dominated nonconference play and the No. 9 spot in the latest RPI.
“It’s a much better team then what they had last year. They’re all a year older, they’ve added some nice pieces and guys have gotten better,” Kingston said.