Auburn will have its hands full this weekend with the two-time defending national champions rolling into town. South Carolina will bring their usual boatload of future MLB talent this weekend. After a slow start in SEC play, the Gamecocks have won three straight series. As we know, Auburn is in the exact opposite situation. The Tigers will be trying to win their first SEC series in three weeks.
Friday: Michael Roth (3-0 2.55 ERA)
It seems like Roth has been pitching for the Gamecocks for ten years, and we're sure the rest of the SEC feels the same way.
Two weeks ago against Tennessee, Roth had a quality start. He pitched into the seventh inning and allowed three earned runs to give South Carolina a chance to win the game. The Gamecocks could not capitalize, however, as they lost to Tennessee in the series opener. Roth had a heavy ball that game which led to eleven ground ball outs. Roth did not strike out any Volunteers and had zero walks.
Last week against Mississippi State, Roth took a no-hitter into the fifth inning but gave up a home run. After he gave up the no hitter, things unraveled a bit. Roth allowed five earned runs and issued three walks, which is uncharacteristic for Roth. He retired two Bulldogs via strikeout.
Saturday: Jordan Montgomery (3-0, 2.40 ERA)
There is only one word for Montgomery's start two weeks ago against Tennessee: dominant. The freshman left-hander struck out seven and walked none in eight innings pitched. Montgomery only allowed one earned run and three hits. South Carolina needed that outing because the Gamecocks won in a low scoring game 2-1.
Last week, Montgomery gave South Carolina another quality start, throwing 6.1 innings and allowing five hits and one earned run. He had good command and only walked two batters. Are we sure this guy is a freshman?
Sunday: Colby Holmes (5-0, 2.87 ERA)
Things do not get any easier on Sunday with Holmes pitching for South Carolina. Against Tennessee two weeks ago, Holmes helped the Gamecocks clinch their weekend series with a fantastic effort. He threw seven innings and only gave up four hits. The only run against Holmes came from a solo homer in the seventh inning. He did not give up any free passes to the Vols, which is the way you are supposed to pitch with a lead like South Carolina had.
The Gamecocks were going for their first SEC sweep of the year and called on Holmes to deliver it for them last week. All he did was pitch into the ninth inning. Carolina tried to give him the complete game, but after two hits to lead off the inning, the Gamecocks called on the bullpen to close it out. Mississippi State was able to find a way to tag Holmes for four earned runs, but it appears he never allowed a big inning. Holmes struck out three batters, walked none and threw exactly one hundred pitches.
South Carolina shows why it's back to back national champions with its pitching rotation. The Gamecocks issue very few walks, so Auburn should go to the plate ready to swing. If the Tigers want to have a chance to redeem themselves after the last two weeks, they must capitalize when given the opportunity. Doing the small things and playing A-B-C baseball can be the difference when facing a team the caliber of South Carolina. We would like to see Auburn return to the team that was built on speed and put some pressure on the defense by attempting to steal more bases.
We will be keeping a close eye on outfielder/designated hitter Bobby Andrews and seeing if his performance the last two games was due to who Auburn was playing or if he has really turned it around. Andrews has great speed that can really impact a game, especially against a team like Carolina.