Since joining the Southeastern Conference in 1992, South Carolina has never been swept at home twice in the same season.
The Gamecocks will try to avoid that fate on Sunday at noon against Vanderbilt – in a game that was moved up from 1 p.m. because of rain in the forecast.
USC has been swept at home just five times period since 1992 – in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999 and this season. The 1999 sweep against Kentucky included two seven-inning games.
Here are the times since 1992 that USC has been swept multiple times in a season …
1992: LSU, home; Auburn (one eight-inning game), road
1996: Florida, home; Kentucky, road
2006: Kentucky, road; Georgia, road
2008: Georgia, road; LSU, road; Arkansas, road
2013: Arkansas, home; Florida, road
Beating Vanderbilt on Sunday, if the game happens, will be no easy task. The Commodores are 41-6 and 21-2 in the SEC and are angling for the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. USC, at this point, is on the outside looking in for the eight national seeds, but a win Sunday could certainly help the Gamecocks with that goal.
(If Sunday’s game is rained out, it will not be made up, per SEC rules. USC played 29 games last year instead of the scheduled 30, so it’s not unheard of. Sunday’s game was not moved to Saturday, for a double-header, because Sunday’s game is scheduled to be on television.)
USC on Saturday did avoid getting no-hit for the first time since 1990, but other than that, did very little against Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede, who had a no-hitter through six and gave up just two singles and two earned runs in a 5-2 win. Beede lasted 6 1/3 innings.
“Big league stuff,” said USC coach Chad Holbrook. “There’s a reason why he’s probably going to be the first or second pick in the draft next year. He’s as advertised and kind of overpowered us there for six-plus innings. Incredible talent. They followed him up with a kid I tried like crazy to recruit, in (reliever) Carson Fulmer, and he’s really good, too. I think all you guys can see why they (Vanderbilt) have got a special team.
“I said on Thursday that I can’t find a weakness in their team. They’re a complete team. If you find a weakness, throw it my way. I’ll listen. They’re a complete team. (Beede) has got a big league fastball and you very rarely see a guy at the college level with a 93, 94 mph fastball and a big league changeup – and it’s a big league changeup. There’s a reason why he’s 12-0.
“We’ve got some awfully big games in front of us, tomorrow and three against Georgia and three against Mississippi State. There’s been many a team that’s played deep into the NCAA tournament that had a .500 SEC record. I hope we finish higher than .500. I think we will, if we play well. We want to get into that NCAA tournament and play our best baseball of the year at that time. It’s what our goal is each and every year. We can certainly put ourselves in a good position here in the last two weekends and tomorrow if we play well.”
Some other notes from Saturday’s game …
** Holbrook had to put Sean Sullivan (.286 batting average) in right field because Connor Bright (who is third on the team with a .309 average) couldn’t go on Saturday. Bright started Friday, but is still dealing with a shoulder injury and might not play Sunday.
Sullivan foul popped-out to end the fifth on Saturday when USC was down 4-0 and had runners on second and third. Sullivan did drive in USC’s second run, with a single in the seventh, when USC got all three of its hits – which were all singles.
“Connor Bright is day to day,” Holbrook said. “It’s just a very painful injury that he’s got. He did take batting practice today and it was very, very painful for him. I don’t know if he’ll be able to play tomorrow or not. I would doubt it. But we’ll see. Maybe he feels better in the morning when he comes in here.”
** Holbrook liked that Colby Holmes, who has struggled, allowed just two hits and no runs in three innings of relief on Friday. On Saturday, Holbrook saw relievers Patrick Sullivan, Vince Fiori and Evan Beal combine to allow eight hits and one run against the SEC’s best hitting team, after Jordan Montgomery’s start lasted just 2 2/3 innings.
“The one good thing about these two losses, if there’s a good thing about it, is some of our guys in the bullpen that maybe haven’t thrown as well as we would’ve liked them to throw threw pretty well,” Holbrook said. “Colby threw good yesterday. But at the same point in time, I’m not taking anything away from those guys. What they did was encouraging. We’re going to put them back out there.
“But they were pitching and we were behind. It’s a little easier to pitch when you’re behind and trying to hold them, and give us a chance to win. The pressure is not as much. But those kids, they gave us a chance to win the game and that’s all you can ask for with our relievers.”
** USC’s hitters were left very impressed by Beede.
“That was probably the best (changeup) I’ve ever seen,” said Max Schrock
Even in the fifth and seventh innings, when USC sort of got to Beede, “I wouldn’t say we really figured him out,” said LB Dantzler.