Who’s the Pack playing?
Opponent: South Carolina
Mascot: [insert your own joke] | School Location: Columbia, SC | Conference: SEC
2023 Record: 40-19 (16-13, 3rd) | 2023 RPI Rank: 8
2022 Record: 27-28 (13-17, 5th) | 2022 RPI Rank: 69 (nice)
2021 Record: 34-23 (16-14, 4th) | 2021 RPI Rank: 20
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Founders Park (Columbia, SC)
Game Time(s): Sat, Jun 3 @ 6:00pm
TV: Saturday (ESPN+ and TBD)
Radio: The Varsity Network (Saturday)
Live Stats: NCAA Stats
Tell me about this team
In case you were hoping to get a break from impressive resume teams... Sorry. That ain’t happening.
Looking at this South Carolina team’s roster is impressive. There are power bats spread throughout, and the non-power bats are efficient on-base machines. The only “weak link” you could identify still went 1-for-3 with a double and two walks yesterday, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The offensive approach between the Gamecocks and the Camels is night-and-day. There is speed on the South Carolina roster, and they will certainly take bases if the opportunity allows, but they’re not going to make it a focal point. They’re also not going to play base-to-base with sacrifices bunts (a great philosophy), but instead play for the big inning by trying to bash the ball. That’s exactly how you should play when you have a team that can hit as well as the Gamecocks do.
Of course, the counter to playing for that big inning and having some bashers in the lineup is going to be the strikeouts, and that can be an issue for South Carolina. They have a 23.9 K% as a team (compared to 16.8% for NC State), and even in a walloping of an overmatched Central Connecticut squad last night, still had a 15.8 K% (9 K’s in 57 PA).
Offense is obviously the carrying card of this team, but the pitching staff is no slouch as it is deep and talented, even without a 1st round talent carrying the load. Pitching depth is what wins in the postseason anyways, so having a bullpen that runs eight deep is a mighty fine luxury to have.
Jack Mahoney and Will Sanders provide a solid 1-2 starting punch, and James Hicks, Noah Hall, and Matthew Becker provide starter/reliever flexibility that is so valuable (Hicks started against Central Connecticut on Friday). There might not be an Andrew Walters level shutdown reliever on the roster, but there are plenty of options to mix-and-match. There is a lack of lefties on the roster with Becker being the only highly used LHP; he is really good, though.
This South Carolina team might not be on the level of some past Gamecocks teams after their late-season skid (they’re just 6-13 since sweeping Florida in late April), but they have the ability to be as evidenced by their 34-6 start to the year. With a talented lineup and deep pitching staff, this could easily be another College World Series bound team.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Saturday: RHP Jack Mahoney (JR)
RF Ethan Petry (FR) - .376/.471/.756, 11.7 BB%, 21.8 K%, 4-5 SB. 1st Team All-SEC and All-SEC Freshman Team honoree, including 2nd place finish for SEC Freshman-of-the-Year award. For the first part of the year, Petry looked like the national Freshman-of-the-Year, but cooled off a little (just a little) down the stretch and some other players stepped up. This kid is still a beast and looks like a lock to be a high 2025 1st rounder.
DH Will McGillis (rSR) - .300/.481/.775, 16.7 BB%, 13.9 K%, 2-3 SB. Southern Miss transfer with a lot of pop in the bat. His biggest issue at Southern Miss was a high K%, but despite moving up in competition level, he’s cut that by a third while showing more patience at the dish. That bat has MLB teams taking notice, but defense is going to hamper his draft stock.
C Cole Messina (SO) - .309/.427/.636, 13.5 BB%, 16.5 K%, 6-6 SB. Went from lightly used reserve as a freshman to 1st Team All-SEC this year. Leads the team in doubles and is perfect on stolen bases, so despite having linebacker size, he’s not your stiff backstop. He’s thrown out 7-of-25 attempted base stealers (21.9%).
SS Braylen Wimmer (SR) - .289/.397/.528, 11.9 BB%, 21.6 K%, 13-14 SB. An 18th round pick by the Phillies in last year’s draft who chose to return to school. Will definitely be drafted again, but doesn’t project as a SS at the next level. Very good athleticism and can destroy pitches.
1B Gavin Casas (JR) - .260/.412/.590, 15.7 BB%, 23.1 K%, 0-0 SB. Vanderbilt transfer with a big frame and a big lefty swing. Was a big time recruit coming out of high school (obviously) and has good bloodlines (his brother, Tristan, was a 2018 1st round pick and now plays for the Red Sox).
RHP Jack Mahoney (JR) - 6-3, 4.01 ERA, 74.0 IP, 7.7 BB%, 22.8 K%. Low-to-mid 90’s heater that is the setup pitch for his low-80’s sweeping slider. Also has a good changeup that can be an out pitch. Did not pitch in 2022 while recovering from a torn UCL, but instead played a little 2B for South Carolina (.188/.316/.563, 15.8 BB%, 52.6 K%). He’ll get drafted this year in the top 10 rounds.
LHP Matthew Becker (SO) - 4-3, 1 SV, 4.24 ERA, 51.0 IP, 10.9 BB%, 29.3 K%. Flex arm with a big time curveball that dominates. Paired with a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, the combo can be devastating when he’s locating in the zone. Potential 1st round pick next year. Control can be an issue, but it’s much improved over last year.
RHP Eli Jones (SO) - 4-5, 0 SV, 4.29 ERA, 50.1 IP, 7.3 BB%, 27.4 K%. Zone pounder who went from being a contact-oriented pitcher last year to a strikeout guy this year. Has a tendency to give up some hard contact, but specializes in groundballs.
Quick! Fun Facts!
In keeping with the NC State connection to the opponent coaching history theme going, former Wolfpack player and skipper Ray Tanner led the Gamecocks to back-to-back national titles in 2010 and 2011 as part of a 16-year run atop the South Carolina program that included 14 Regionals, 10 Super Regionals, and 6 trips to Omaha. He is now the Gamecocks’ Athletics Director.
South Carolina had a run of 15 straight NCAA Regional appearances from 2000-2014, including hosting 10 of those. This is their 4th Regional in the last 8 seasons, although they’ve hosted 3 of those.
There are 8 former Gamecocks that have appeared at the MLB level this season: INF Jonah Bride (OAK), RHP Wil Crowe (PIT), RHP Clarke Schmidt (NYY), LHP Jordan Montgomery (STL), UTIL Whit Merrifield (TOR), 1B Christian Walker (ARI), OF Jackie Bradley Jr (KCR), RHP Heath Hembree (TBR).
The Gamecocks have three Clemson transfers on the roster (OF Dylan Brewer, C Jonathan French, RHP Ricky Williams), which just feels so wrong on so many levels. Then again, South Carolina hired former Clemson coach Monte Lee as an assistant after the Tigers canned him after last season.
NC State stacks the lineup with lefties again to face Mahoney and, like yesterday, finds success. South Carolina counters by bringing in Becker who quells the Pack bats. Gamecocks offense, meanwhile, slowly climbs back against the State bullpen and pulls out a close win.
Outcome: South Carolina wins 5-4