NCAA baseball tournament 2014: Terps hope to cage Gamecocks in crucial game

@mercator88

Both Maryland and South Carolina won their first game of the Regionals yesterday, setting up today's epic match-up. The winner will only have to win one out of their next two games to go to the Super Regionals. The Gamecocks have tradition, experience, and most importantly, a raucous home crowd. But the Terps are resilient and fear no one. Play ball!

The Terps’ come-from-behind win on Friday was huge. Had they lost they would have had to win four straight to win the Regional. Now they have to win two straight or three of four to go to the Super Regional. It won’t be easy, as the Terrapins’ next opponent has won 28 straight NCAAT games at home. South Carolina defeated Campbell yesterday 5 - 2 and will be a daunting opponent for Maryland. This is the 15th straight season that the Gamecocks have gone to the NCAAT, where they’ve been quite successful recently: they won the CWS in 2010, 2011, and were runner-up in 2012.

South Carolina (43 – 16) began the season by reeling off 16 straight wins to be ranked #1 in the national polls. They’ve since gone 27 – 16, in large part due to injuries that key players have suffered. The Gamecocks finished 18 – 12 in SEC play, good for second in the conference’s East Division. However, they were two and through in the SEC tournament, which may have cost them a shot at being seeded in the NCAAT. Currently the Gamecocks are ranked #13 in the Coaches Poll.

South Carolina is a different team on the road than at home. This season the Gamecocks were 32 – 5 at home and 10 – 11 away from Columbia. Three of those five home losses came during a five game losing streak in April in which the Gamecocks lost to two teams with an RPI above 150. That's of little solace as tomorrow's game is in South Carolina's den.

Hitting

For the season the Gamecocks are hitting “only” .270, but as mentioned above a number of players were injured. The biggest injury was to 2B Max Shrock, a freshman All-American in 2013. Shrock has returned to the line-up as a DH and is hitting .270 with five HRs in limited action. Connor Bright is hitting .331 after hitting .288 last year. He’s followed by closely by 1B Kyle Martin (.329) and catcher Grayson Greiner (.328). Greiner leads South Carolina with eight dingers, but there are three other Gamecocks who have five home runs. They don’t run very often or effectively, but with the heavy lumber USCe carries, that’s no real loss. Tanner English leads the team with 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts. No other Gamecock has more than four SB.

Pitching and fielding

South Carolina ranks eighth nationally with a combined 2.37 ERA (1st in the SEC). They have two crafty southpaws in Jordan Montgomery and Jack Wynkoop. Freshman RHP Will Crowe already possesses a mid-90’s fastball. But the most dangerous part of the Gamecocks' pitching staff is on the back end. They have five relievers with ERAs under 2.00. Their closer, Joel Seddon (14 saves) has an 0.85 ERA and has struck out 51 batters in 42 innings. In terms of defense, the Gamecocks are ranked 2nd in the SEC in fielding percentage and their catchers have thrown out 38% of runners attempting to steal.

Overall

South Carolina is a formidable opponent. While Maryland has beaten teams ranked higher than the Gamecocks, the boys from Columbia, SC rarely lose at home. A win here would be monstrous for the Terps. To do that Maryland will send out the freshman with ice water in his veins, Mike Shawaryn. All Shawaryn has done is beat Florida, FSU (twice), and leads the ACC with 10 victories. Last night the Gamecocks had Jordan Montgomery start against Campbell. Wynkoop will face the Terps in today's game. South Carolina’s closer, Joel Seddon, pitched an inning last night; however he only threw 19 pitches. From what I saw he’s got a few really nasty breaking pitches at his disposal.

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