Who’s the Pack playing?
Opponent: South Carolina
Mascot: Illegal Fighting Chickens | School Location: Columbia, SC | Conference: SEC
2019 Record: 17-11 (2-7, 6th East) | 2018 RPI Rank: 62
2018 Record: 37-26 (17-13, 3rd East) | 2018 RPI Rank: 27
2017 Record: 35-25 (13-17, 5th East) | 2017 RPI Rank: 31
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: BB&T Ballpark (Charlotte, NC)
Game Time(s): Tuesday, Apr 2 @ 7:00pm
TV: Watch ESPN
Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access
Tell me about this team
First, let’s take a look at what was said about South Carolina from our 2019 Season Preview:
SR OF TJ Hopkins (.345/.448/.496, 8 2B, 14 SB), SR OF/UTIL Jacob Olson (.234/.290/.472, 20 2B, 12 HR), SO 2B/SS/OF Noah Campbell (.270/.372/.380, 3 3B, 3 HR, 7 SB), and SR C Chris Cullen (.190/.294/.293, 3 HR) are the only returners in the lineup from the 2018 Super Regional squad. Campbell, from Cardinal Gibbons HS in Raleigh, and Hopkins will fill the leadoff and two-hole spots, while Olson and Cullen will occupy the bottom of the order. Filling in that heart of the lineup is going to be the key for South Carolina if they hope for another solid season. Talent is, of course, there for it to happen. A quartet of JUCO transfers should contend to fill those spots in the form of SO OF Andrew Eyster, JR C Luke Berryhill, and JR INFs Nick Neville and George Callil. FR INF Josiah Sightler, FR OF Brady Allen, and RS-FR OF Ian Jenkins are players to watch; all were MLB Draft picks coming out of high school.
SO RHP Logan Chapman (3-3, 5.85 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, .268 OBA), SR RHP Ridge Chapman (1-4, 4.93 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .194 OBA), and SO RHP Carmen Mlodzinski (3-6, 1 SV, 5.52 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, .264 OBA) all return with starting experience, but Mlodzinski appears to be the only one who has locked down a weekend rotation spot as of yet. Highly-touted JUCO transfer RHP Hayden Lehman is almost assuredly going to earn a starting rotation gig. JR RHP Sawyer Bridges (2-1, 5 SV, 1.35 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .223 OBA), SO RHP TJ Shook (3-0, 2.33 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, .305 OBA), SO RHP Parker Coyne (1-1, 3.18 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .192 OBA), SO LHP John Gilreath (0-1, 1 SV, 4.28 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, .260 OBA), and SR RHP Graham Lawson (1-1, 3 SV, 5.60 ERA, 1.32 ERA, .248 OBA) all return to form what will be one of the nation’s best bullpens. Shook and Gilreath could end up in the starting rotation, though, but there are arms a plenty for the ‘pen. There are a lot of options for the Gamecocks to play with. That’s not even factoring in JUCO transfers LHP Cole Ganopulus and RHP Reid Morgan. There’s also a bevy of talented freshman arms, led by LHP Dylan Harley (who may well end up as a starter) and RHP Wesley Sweatt. If the Gamecocks don’t win this year, it won’t be because of the pitching.
2019 Projected Record: 41-15 (18-12)
NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes
Okay, yeah. I think I missed pretty badly on this one...
South Carolina was sitting at 14-3 with series wins over a way-better-than-the-name-indicates Liberty and their arch-rival Clemson. Then they got into SEC play and. The. Wheels. Have. Come. Off. The Gamecocks are just 3-8 since that 14-3 start, including a midweek loss to NC A&T where they got shut out at home (they also lost an earlier midweek game at home getting blown out 10-2 by a mid-100’s RPI Gardner-Webb team that’s just one game over .500 right now).
So what went wrong? Well they went from averaging 7.8 runs per game to an even 4.0 per game. The Gamecocks are giving up just under a run per game more since entering conference play, but that’s to be expected. Cutting your offensive production almost in half? That’s a recipe for disaster.
Now, granted they did open up SEC play with Georgia, Tennessee, and Auburn, but go find me a South Carolina fan that says 2-7 is an acceptable record even against that group.
I would say things get easier from here, but that’s not really true. The Gamecocks get an Alabama squad this weekend that might be the weakest team in the SEC, but that series is on the road. They also have Kentucky still to go, too, so they have that going for them, which is nice. Florida, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Missouri are all legit Top 25-level squads, though, and South Carolina still has to play each of them. Yikes.
On offense, the team has been cranking home runs like crazy (they rank 3rd nationally with 46; NC State is 8th with 37), but they only really have four players who have been consistently getting on base aside from the long balls. The pitching staff is pretty evenly divided between guys who have been lights out and guys who have been working lights on the scoreboard. South Carolina is a good, but not great, team defensively; nothing to write home about, but they’re not going to lose any games because of their fielding, either.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Tuesday: LHP Dylan Harley (FR)
C Luke Berryhill (RS-SO) - .290 BA, .408 OBP, .600 SLG, 100 AB, 11 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 25 R, 27 RBI, 18 BB, 23 K, 3-4 SB. Berryhill, the JUCO transfer from Walters State, is the most complete hitter on the team. For all the offensive success that he’s had, Berryhill has struggled defensively, allowing 7 PB and throwing out just 5-of-24 attempted base stealers.
CF T.J. Hopkins (SR) - .310 BA, .368 OBP, .628 SLG, 113 AB, 6 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 28 R, 26 RBI, 11 BB, 29 K, 8-9 SB. Hopkins has been moving all around the top three of the batting order lately trying to find where he fits in best. His batting average has dropped 47 points over the Gamecocks recent 11 game skid. Not known for his walk-taking prowess, he has drawn four free passes over the last three games.
3B/RF Jacob Olson (SR) - .300 BA, .371 OBP, .627 SLG, 110 AB, 9 2B, 0 3B, 9 HR, 21 R, 24 RBI, 9 BB, 22 K, 4-4 SB. Was a 39th round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft after his lone season at West Georgia Tech JUCO. The guy can crank it (29 2B and 21 HR since the start of last year), but he also strikes out at a healthy (not healthy?) rate and doesn’t walk much at all. Over the last six games is just 2-for-22 with 2 BB, 2 HBP, and 8 K.
SS George Callil (JR) - .246 BA, .362 OBP, .474 SLG, 57 AB, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 8 R, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 11 K, 0-0 SB. The only South Carolina lineup regular hitting over .300 in SEC play thus far (Berryhill is the only other one over .250), the JUCO transfer originally from Australia is on a bit of a heater. He’s 7-for-14 over his last four games with 3 2B and a HR. Has managed to get plunked by a pitch in an impressive 10% of his 70 plate appearances this year.
RF Andrew Eyster (SO) - .300 BA, .376 OBP, .550 SLG, 80 AB, 6 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 16 R, 13 RBI, 9 BB, 29 K, 0-0 SB. Okay, yeah, I don’t quite understand this one. Yes, Eyster strikes out a ton, but this is a lineup where basically everybody does that... and it’s an offense that needs dudes that can hit. Eyster is a dude that can hit. After a recent six-game rough stretch (a statement true of all but two SC hitters during that time) where he went just 3-for-23 with 14 K’s, he was benched and got just two pinch-hit ABs last weekend.
LHP Dylan Harley (FR) - 1-2, 7.77 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, .253 OBA, 27.5 K%, 14.7 BB%, 22.0 IP, 22 H, 20 R, 19 ER, 15 BB, 28 K. Name the top five pitchers of all time.. Dylan... Dylan... Dylan, Dylan, and Dylan. He spits hot fire! In his last game out against NC A&T, Harley went a season/career high 4.2 IP, giving up 2 R (both earned) on 3 H with 1 BB and 5 K. Harley can struggle with his control at times, but has found it more recently, allowing just 2 BB over his last 8.1 IP. He’ll sit in the low 90’s with his FB, occasionally touching the mid 90’s.
RHP Cam Tringali (RS-FR) - 1-0, 1 SV, 2.30 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, .207 OBA, 29.3 K%, 4.9 BB%, 31.1 IP, 23 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 6 BB, 36 K. The hometown kid from Columbia is one of the Gamecock’s top bullpen arms this year despite being one of the lowest-recruited players (at least in terms of recruiting rankings) coming out of high school. Threw 66 pitches in relief on Sunday, so he’s unlikely to throw in this one.
RHP Brett Kerry (FR) - 2-1, 3 SV, 2.05 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .183 OBA, 37.8 K%, 4.1 BB%, 26.1 IP, 17 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 37 K. Kerry is a former high school teammate of NC State SO C Patrick Bailey, and along with Tringali, is one of the Gamecocks top two bullpen arms. Has not allowed a run over his last four outings spanning 7.2 IP. Five of those innings came over Saturday and Sunday against Auburn (including 41 pitches on Sunday), so it’s unlikely that he throws in this game, too.
RHP T.J. Shook (RS-SO) - 2-1, 1 SV, 4.15 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .200 OBA, 33.3 K%, 11.5 BB%, 21.2 IP, 16 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 11 BB, 32 K. The reason that Tringali and Kerry are unlikely to pitch in this game is because Shook got... err... rocked. Rocked. He got rocked on Sunday in his start against Auburn, allowing four runs (all earned) on two hits, two walks, and a HBP in just 1.1 IP. He’s been South Carolina’s Sunday starter for a while now, but given his short outing Sunday (although he did throw 42 pitches) and his struggles in his last two starts, he might get some work out of the bullpen in this one.
RHP Wesley Sweatt (FR) - 1-2, 0 SV, 4.63 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .267 OBA, 11.2 K%, 5.1 BB%, 23.1 IP, 24 H, 15 R, 12 ER, 5 BB, 11 K. The second half of the top-rated two arms of South Carolina’s freshman class, Sweatt had worked his way into the Friday starter gig; however, after two horrible outings, he was moved back to the bullpen where he’s pitched very well. Sweatt throws a low 90’s fastball, mixing in a change and curve that flash potential.
Quick! Fun Facts!
NC State SO RHP Reid Johnston was named the ACC Pitcher of the Week after his complete game shutout of Virginia on Saturday. He’s the second Wolfpack pitcher to take home the honor in the last three weeks (JR RHP Jason Parker).
South Carolina and NC State surprisingly haven’t played on the baseball diamond since 2008.
NC State leads the all-time series by a nice football score of 35-21.
Despite the campus being a close drive from the border, South Carolina has just three players on its roster from the State of North Carolina. In addition to Kerry (Clemmons, NC), SO 2B Noah Campbell (Durham, NC) and FR INF Jonah Beamon (Charlotte, NC) hail from the old north state.
I’d feel much better about this game if it weren’t being played at BB&T Ballpark, one of the most home run friendly minor league parks in the country, and if State weren’t going up against a talented pitcher who’s starting to put it together.
No official word yet (as of Monday evening) on who will get the ball on the mound to start for NC State, but it looks like it’s going to be SO LHP Canaan Silver. Silver has been pretty good this season, but has only worked past the 4th inning once.
This could end up being a Jonny Wholestaff game for both teams, especially since neither play again until Friday.
Outcome: State wins 7-5.