Sunday, April 3, 2016

Wrapping up the weekend, April 3

I've got to tell you I'm really a fan of all the college baseball games on the Internet and cable TV. I have an Apple TV device, which allows easy streaming to a television.  At different points during the weekend I saw action involving Clemson, Furman, Lander, Presbyterian, The Citadel and USC, as well as several other ACC and SEC teams.

There were lots of entertaining games going on, many involving state teams.

* Clemson went 2-1 against Pittsburgh to finish the first half of its season with a 21-7 record, including 7-5 in the ACC. The Tigers were 14-14 at the midpoint of the regular season a year.

Tigers freshman Seth Beer returned to the lineup after missing two midweek games because of his grandfather's death and extended his hitting streak to 24 games. He is hitting .422 wsith 12 homers and 34 RBIs. Chris Okey (.346) and Chase Pinder (.343) continued to hit well.

Clemson's starting pitching was ordinary -- at best -- for the second straight weekend and the Tigers' defense committed four more errors. Those areas will need to improve to help compensate for a time when the offense doesn't hit at the level it has recently.

Pitt was a pesky opponent, winning the Saturday game and leading much of Sunday's games. The Panthers had victories over ranked league foes Florida State and North Carolina earlier this season.

* Coastal Carolina's sweep of Gardner-Webb allowed the Chanticleers to move into a first-place tie with High Point in the Big South Conference.  By the way, High Point stepped out of conference and won two of three at Maryland over the weekend.

* College of Charleston remained in first place in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 2-1 series victory at Elon.

* Florence-Darlington Tech bolted into the NJCAA Region 10 picture by going 4-0 against Louisburg in the only sweep on region play over the weekend. The Stingers are 10-6 in the league, good for a third-place tie with Pitt CC. USC Sumter (13-3) has a two-game lead over second-place Spartanburg Methodist (11-5).

* North Greenville and Belmont Abbey entered their weekend series tied for first place in Conference Carolinas and the matchup lived up to expectations. Host Belmont Abbey won two of three, but all three games were decided by one run.  Belmont Abbey won Friday's game, 3-2. NGU evened the series when Nathaniel Maggio's seventh-inning home run provided the margin of a 5-4 victory in the opener of a Saturday doubleheader.

The lead changed dugouts five times - each team had a seven-run inning - before North Greenville tied the score at 13-13 in the eighth. A potential go-ahead run was thrown out to end the inning. The score stayed that way until Weston Clarke led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run.

* Presbyterian lost two of three at UNC Asheville, but the Blue Hose's Tyler Weyenberg extended his hitting streak to 22 games.

* If it's possible for a team to feel good after going 1-2 in a conference series, that may be where South Carolina stands after its weekend trip to Vanderbilt.  The Gamecocks frittered a 4-1 lead midway through the series finale to lost 10-6, but still returned to Columbia in first place in the SEC East with a 7-2 record. The Gamecocks' first nine conference games were against three teams ranked in tdhe Top 15 at the time.

There are still 21 conference games to go -- and no guarantees of anything -- but it would be reasonable to expect the Gamecocks (24-5) are going to be in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth this season.

A healthy Alex Destino would help those chances. Destino arrived on campus a year ago with high expectations (think Seth Beer-like numbers) from some fans. Instead he struggled. This year, he's batting .360. He suffered an upper body injury in Friday's win at Vanderbilt when he ran into the left-field wall while making a catch. He missed Saturday's season finale and preliminary reports suggested he would miss a midweek game with Coastal Carolina, too.

Perhaps the brightest spot of the Gamecocks over the weekend was Braden Webb's eight-inning, two-hit, 11-strikeout outing in Friday's 4-0 win over Vanderbilt. Starting pitching has been a Gamecocks strength this season.

* USC Aiken opened some breathing room over Lander in the Big South Conference with its series sweep at UNC Pembroke while the Bearcats were winning two of three at North Georgia.

* USC Beaufort assured itself of a berth in The Sun Conference Tournament and kept possession of first place by winning two of three games at St. Thomas.

* Liberty entered its weekend series at Winthrop with a 3-0 Big South Conference record, but found the Eagles to be inhospitable hosts. Winthrop won all three games to climb into third place with a 4-2 mark.

* Wofford suffered through a miserable weekend, being outscored 35-8 in a series sweep by Western Carolina.

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