The SEC starts tonight with their ESPN Game of the Week broadcasts for the 2011 season featuring the 2010 national champion South Carolina facing off against the University of Tennessee for a key three game SEC series. South Carolina enters the weekend with a 23-5 overall record while being 7-2 in SEC play while Tennessee is 19-10 overall and 2-7 in SEC play.
South Carolina is currently on a six game winning streak with the most recent win coming over intrastate rival South Carolina-Upstate on Tuesday by a score of 18-2. Last weekend in SEC play, they swept the University of Kentucky Wildcats in three tight games which were decided by a total of five runs.
The Gamecocks offense has been led by Adrian Morales and Christian Walker. Morales enters the series with a .368 batting average with three homers and 20 RBI. Walker is second on the team with a .364 batting average while hitting six homers and driving in 33 runs. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. who is considered the best pro prospect for the Gamecocks is questionable for this weekend series with an injury in his back.
The Gamecocks pitching staff has a team ERA of 2.70 as Michael Roth has been serving as the normal “Friday” starter but this week will get the Thursday start. He is currently 6-1 with an ERA of 1.44 while striking out 50 out of the 185 batters he has faced. Matt Price serves as the closer for the Gamecocks while being one of the best in the entire country. He is 3-2 with a 3.26 ERA while picking up seven saves in his 19.1 innings of work.
Tennessee enters the weekend coming on a four game losing streak after losing to Presbyterian 10-6 on Tuesday and being swept in Gainesville by the Florida Gators.
The Vols offense has been led by senior infielder Khayyan Norfolk who checks in with a .405 batting average while hitting three homers and driving in 28 runs. He has been great on the basepaths as he has stolen 20 bases in 23 attempts. Matt Duffy is second on the team with a .373 batting average but leads the team with five homers and 30 RBI. He is also perfect on the basepaths with seven stolen bases in as many attempts.
Tennessee enters this weekend with a team ERA of 4.30. Leading the staff is Rob Catapano who will get the ball on Thursday night as he is 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in six appearances including four starts on the year. Steven Gruver will get the ball this week on Saturday as he is 3-3 with a 3.04 ERA in his seven starts. Matt Ramsey leads the team with three saves as he is 0-1 with an ERA of 1.17.
Probable Starting Pitchers
Thursday: SC LHP Michael Roth (6-1, 1.44) vs LHP Rob Catapano (2-1, 3.18)
Friday: SC RHP Colby Holmes (2-0, 3.91) vs LHP Steven Gruver (3-3, 3.04)
Saturday: SC RHP Forrest Koumas (3-0, 2.10) vs UT TBA
Brian Foley’s Prediction: South Carolina Sweep