COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina baseball is down to its final three regular-season games of the season this weekend. But the series against Georgia is far from a postseason tune-up or simple regular-season wrap-up.
The Gamecocks enter needing wins in a weekend that feels like it is a prelude to the NCAA Tournament.
“We know this is a big weekend,” pitcher Wil Crowe said. “We are preparing as if it’s the NCAA Tournament and that we are playing that every game matters. We are going into it with a good mindset and good mentality and we are going to play some good baseball.”
The Gamecocks will need to do all of that. They sit at 12-15 in league play heading into the final weekend and are, by all accounts, fighting for their postseason possibilities starting at 7 p.m. Thursday against the Bulldogs.
Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook said he doesn’t have a necessary number of wins in mind in the final three games plus next week’s SEC Tournament to avoid missing the postseason for the second time in three seasons.
“I know our metrics and our numbers are good,” said Holbrook, referencing South Carolina’s RPI of 29. “But you have to put yourself in that conversation. It comes with winning some games. We have some games on the table that we need to win. How many? I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I know that we are going to have to win more than we lose and probably by a couple of games. I don’t know if there is a magic number. Let’s just try to win tomorrow night and then put ourselves in position to win the series, then we will be getting closer to that.”
Winning the series against Georgia has to be a top priority for the Gamecocks, but doing so has been a struggle all season. South Carolina has claimed only two SEC series wins this year, dropping seven straight in SEC play for the first time in school history.
“I think our kids understand where they are,” Holbrook said. “Anything short of winning the series is going to put us in a difficult spot. We have next week as well, but we need to get off to a good start and play one game at a time and go 1-0 tomorrow, keep it simple and worry about Friday when it gets here.”
Crowe will be on the mound for the Gamecocks on Thursday night, an opportunity he relishes in saying “I want the ball as much as I can have it.” Adam Hill will start Friday before the Gamecocks patch together a pitching plan Saturday before heading into the SEC Tournament.
It will be all hands on deck for the pitching staff to win as many games as possible this weekend, Holbrook said. The Gamecocks will be without catcher Chris Cullen and shortstop Madison Stokes, both of whom were lost for the season this week, adding to the injury woes for the Gamecock and leaving the lineup shuffling.
But whatever lineup and combination trots out in each of the three games this weekend, the importance remains the same: South Carolina needs wins.
“You don’t put yourself in a good position at all if you lose the series this weekend,” Holbrook said. “There’s a lot riding on this weekend for our team.”