Thursday, March 14, 2013
MIZZOU MATCHUP: #5 South Carolina Gamecocks
(14-2 in first season as South Carolina Head Coach)
Taylor Stadium – Columbia, MO
Friday @ 6 PM CT
Saturday @ 2 PM CT
Sunday @ 1 PM CT
South Carolina (14-2, 0-0 SEC) @ Missouri (4-7, 0-0 SEC)
Missouri opens their inaugural season in the SEC against the best team in the conference as of late. Last year, the South Carolina Gamecocks finished their season losing to Arizona in the National Championship, failing to win their third national title in a row. They have won the SEC Eastern Division the past two seasons, and are the only team to have 40+ wins every year since the new millennium. They come into this series boasting a 14-2 record, a 7 game winning streak (11 of last 12), but have only played one true road game (6-0 victory over Clemson).
Sophomore Grayson Greiner performs most of the duties behind the plate for the Gamecocks. His play last year earned him Freshman All-SEC honors, one of two South Carolina players to do so. Although he has an imposing 6’5”, 210 lb. frame, he has not shown much power this season. He also has the lowest OBP of South Carolina’s regular starters (.333). Opposing runners are hesitant to go on him, as he has seen only three runners take off on him, catching one, and has also allowed only one passed ball in his 12 innings behind the dish.
First baseman and team captain LB Dantzler has been an unstoppable force at the plate this season. One of three Gamecocks to start in all 16 games so far, he has but together videogame numbers. It’s hard to pick where to start when discussing the stats he has put up this year, but we can start by saying his .717 slugging percentage would top anybody in the MLB since Barry Bonds in 2004, which I know is a stretch but hang with me, it’s just to give some perspective. His .396 average (21 hits) includes 8 extra base hits, 4 of which left the yard. He, like most of the South Carolina lineup, has a positive BB/K ratio (14 BB, 11 K), which helps his OBP be the highest on the team (.535). All in all, you cannot stop LB Dantzler, you can only hope to contain him.
At third, Chase Vargason has also put together a solid year. The senior has started with a .327 average, adding some power with two homers so far. His glove could use some improvement, although he has made only three errors, it leads the team.
Homegrown shortstop Joey Pankake is out trying to prove that his SEC All-Freshman Team selection a year ago wasn’t a fluke. Hitting right in front of Dantzler, he has provided many opportunities for RBIs, with an OBP of .459. He has added four homers of his own, already doubling his total from a year ago.
Picture your stereotypical leadoff hitter, and that is what you get with junior Graham Saiko. His speed combined with his ability to make contact can potentially be dangerous. His 3.25 BB/K ratio leads the team, as does his 7 stolen bases (caught twice).
LF Graham Saiko (R) .296
3B Chase Vergason (L) .327
SS Joey Pankake (R) .367
1B LB Dantzler (L) .396
2B Max Schrock (L) .267
C Grayson Greiner (R) .244
RF Connor Bright (R) .321
DH George Iskenderian (R) .313
CF Tanner English (S) .324
On Friday, lefty Jordan Montgomery will more than likely take the mound for South Carolina, and he has won all three of his starts this season. Those starts have yielded just 2 ER, and he has as many strikeouts as he has innings pitched (19). His .188 BAA leads all Gamecock weekend starters, so the Tigers will have to work deep into counts in order to get to this Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American. He has not pitched since March 1st, when he went 8 scoreless innings, giving up 3 hits at Clemson.
Sunday, Mizzou will face Nolan Belcher on Sunday, who leads the team in strikeouts (30). Belcher’s control is none other than impeccable. In the 27.2 innings he has thrown so far, he has yielded just a single walk. This pace would not only break the record for K/BB ratio in the MLB, it would shatter it. Again, I know these comparisons are a major stretch, but Bret Saberhagen holds the record in the MLB when his ratio was at 11.00 in 1994. In fact, only 3 players in the history of Major League Baseball have had a ratio higher than 10. Just giving you all something to look for in the series finale.
Out of the bullpen, the Gamecocks have two guys that have yet to give up a run in their 19 combined innings. Evan Beal (.121 BAA) and Tyler Webb (5 saves), have been a force late in games. An early lead will be more than a necessity for Mizzou if they want a chance late in games.
Friday: LHP Rob Zastryzny (1-2, 4.58 ERA) vs. LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-0, 0.95 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Brett Graves (0-1, 3.24 ERA) vs. RHP Colby Holmes (1-1, 4.22 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Eric Anderson (0-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. LHP Nolan Belcher (3-1, 1.63 ERA)
Mizzou will have to bring their A+++ (I’m talking like acing an exam with extra credit) game this weekend in order to beat South Carolina. The Gamecock’s team OBP is .410 while holding their opponents to just .272. They have the upper hand against their opponents in every category, notably 112 runs for and only 41 runs against. They have only struck out 10 fewer batters than runs against and walks COMBINED. Anyways, you get the idea. See you at Taylor Stadium.
Other SEC games this weekend (all 3/15-17):
Tennessee @ Alabama
(6) Ole Miss @ (15) Arkansas
(2) Vanderbilt @ Auburn
(10) Kentucky @ Florida
Georgia @ Texas A&M
(7) LSU @ (13) Mississippi State
Rankings from Baseball America