Preview: Alabama Rounds Out Regular Season Against #10 South Carolina
The bats finally came alive for Alabama (31-21, 15-12 SEC) in its weekend sweep on the road against Arkansas. The Tide scored a season-high 25 runs across the three games and hit seven home runs in the process. This may or may not be a sign of things to come for a team that has struggled all season long at the plate, but we'll see if it can continue when Alabama faces one of the best pitching staffs in the conference.
South Carolina (39-13, 17-9 SEC) used the 2016 season to prove to everyone that they had not gone anywhere after not making the SEC Tournament in 2015. The Gamecocks are one of the best all-around teams in the conference this year especially on the mound.
Starters for South Carolina this weekend will be RHP Clarke Schmidt, RHP Braden Webb, and RHP Adam Hill. Schmidt and Webb have each recorded over 100 strikeouts this season and have a combined 18-6 record. Hill, who is only a freshman, has a perfect 6-0 record and a 3.18 ERA.
Alabama also boasts an impressive set of starters seeing that pitching has been the biggest key to the Tide's success this season. Starting this weekend will be RHP Geoffrey Bramblett, RHP Jake Walters, and RHP Nick Eicholtz. Bramblett has especially come on strong in the second half of the season as he now has a 5-3 record and a 2.71 ERA. Walters boasts a team-best 2.03 ERA and 76 strikeouts. Eicholtz has not been as sharp in recent weeks, but he still has an impressive 2.25 ERA.
Alabama's rotation will face multiple threats against the Gamecocks but none greater than left fielder Alex Destino. Destino leads South Carolina in hits (63), home runs (8), and RBIs (49). Another dangerous hitter is right fielder Gene Cone, who leads the team in batting average (.359). Cone and Destino have a combined for nine hits and eight runs across their last five games.
The Tide's struggles at the plate have been a recurring theme this season, but the recent performances have shown there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Freshman Cobie Vance was among the top hitters against the Razorbacks. He had three hits and scored six runs in the series. He and the rest of the lineup will face a different breed this weekend, but their confidence is building.
South Carolina leads the all-time series over Alabama 31-25 and has won in eight of the last ten meetings. The games on Thursday and Friday will begin at 7:00 p.m. CT. Saturday's finale is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. CT. All three games will be aired on the SEC Network+.