Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wrapping up the weekend, April 27

* Even though South Carolina won two of three against Alabama, the Gamecocks fell to three games behind Florida in the SEC East Division standings. Other than that, there were some encouraging signs for the Gamecocks. USC scored nine runs in both the Friday and Sunday games. The Gamecocks have struggled recently to get hits with runners in scoring position. The three-run homer, such a big part of past USC teams, is a rarity in these days of less-lively baseballs. The 17 hits in Sunday's game were a season-high in conference play. Freshmen Gene Cone and Jordan Gore, thrust into the lineup with few live at-bats around mid-season because of injuries, are beginning to show they're comfortable against college pitching.  If Max Schrock, Connor Bright and Elliott Caldwell can recover from various ailments, Coach Chad Holbrook will have better depth than he had at the start of April. Up next is a series at Georgia. It's a series the Gamecocks need to win - if not sweep - to stay in the conversation for a top 8 national seed.

* Clemson suffered through a disastrous - if that term can be applied to a sport - week, going 1-4 and being swept by Miami. The Tigers fell 4 1/2 games behind Florida State in the ACC Atlantic, and the Seminoles can clinch the division title with any combination of Clemson losses or FSU wins totaling two. It was no disgrace getting swept by Miami, perhaps the hottest team in the country. But when added to the overall body of work the Tigers' pedestrian 25-19 overall record almost certainly has Clemson on the outside of conversations about NCAA Tournament regional hosts. Truthfully, the Tigers probably need to 10-2 to close the regular season, then win a couple of games in the ACC Tournament just to get consideration for an NCAA at-large bid. The grumbling about Jack Leggett heated up on message boards again this weekend. If the Tigers should struggle next weekend in non-conference games against UNLV and James Madison, the grumbling will get louder.

* Winthrop's weekend sweep of VMI and Coastal Carolina's 1-2 series at Gardner-Webb allowed the Eagles to pull into a first-place tie with the Chanticleers in the Big South Conference's South Division. Winthrop had lost six of its previous seven conference games entering the weekend. On paper, the Eagles look to have an edge over the Chanticleers. Winthrop has conference series remaining with Charleston Southern (6-11) and Longwood (8-13).  Coastal's series are with Liberty (19-1) and Campbell (12-6). If Coastal and Winthrop finish in a tie, Winthrop won the head-to-head series, 2-1.

* Coastal Carolina's Austin Kerr pitched a complete-game shutout for the second straight weekend with his 3-0 victory over Gardner-Webb on Saturday.

* College of Charleston stepped out of Colonial Athletic Association play to host a solid Bethune-Cookman problem. The Cougars had a thrilling weekend, winning all three games in extra innings with walk-off victories. School officials say that's the first time that has happened in program history. Next up for the College is a trip to UNC Wilmington. The Seahawks were the preseason choice to win the CAA title, but are languishing in fourth place.

 * A three-game sweep of Georgia Southwestern allowed USC Aiken to push its winning streak to five games. The Pacers have completed Peach Belt Conference play, but close out the regular season next weekend with a three-game home series against Catawba. The Indians won the South Atlantic Conference Tournament over the weekend. A good showing could boost USCA's chances for an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament if it doesn't win the Peach Belt Tournament title.

* The games don't count in the NJCAA Region 10 standings, but USC Lancaster's two-game sweep of regular-season champion Spartanburg Methodist may put the Lancers in a better frame of minds for the upcoming Region 10 tournament. USCL lost its final five region games to finish in fourth place.

* Wofford won the first two games of its home series against Georgia Southern, but fell far short of a sweep when it lost Sunday's game, 20-2.  Wofford plays at The Citadel this weekend

* The Citadel was picked to finish second to Western Carolina by coaches and media in the preseason Southern Conference forecast. But the Bulldogs are in last place as the season winds down. The 2-1 series victory against Furman was The Citadel's first conference series win of the year.

 * Conversely, Furman couldn't come up with a series win and fell behind UNC Greensboro into eighth place in the SoCon.

* Southern Wesleyan ended its season on a good note, winning two of three at Blue Mountain. The Warriors registered three of their 16 season victories this week.  One of the most memorable victories may have come on Monday. That's when the Warriors beat third-ranked NAIA power Faulkner by scoring six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 2 of a doubleheader. The winning run scored on a bases-loaded squeeze bunt.

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