Sports Contest

Friday, February 27, 2015

Defense and Bullpen Should Key Gamecock Success This Weekend

The Reedy River Rivalry renews itself starting tonight. The Gamecocks have won 23 out of their last 31 games against Clemson including a three game sweep last season. The three game sweep last year was a bit misleading. The Gamecocks did blow out the Tigers on Saturday but the Friday and Sunday games were far from a given as both saw big Gamecock comebacks. They did what they always do against Clemson, make the plays when they mattered most. Will that happen again? Maybe, but this Clemson team is much better than most think.

Let's start with the rotation, the Tiger rotation has been lights out so far this year. While the Gamecocks also have a strong rotation, the edge has to go to Clemson. The bullpen is another story. This is Clemson's weak spot and Carolina's strength. The Gamecocks have an abundance of arms and it should serve the Gamecocks well this weekend and this season. Teams with great bullpens not only keep leads but also enable their team to come from behind. This could point to more late inning comeback heroics this weekend for the Gamecocks.

Defense has also been an issue for the Tigers, especially in the games with the Gamecocks. Clemson's defense is supposed to be greatly improved from last season but so far that has not been the case. Clemson has already made 11 errors this season in seven games. The Gamecocks have made just 5 errors this year. The Gamecocks appear to have a superb infield defense. This was one of the trademarks of the teams that won it all in 2010 and 2011. While the Gamecocks had a few issues the last couple of years, it was the regression of the infield defense that was most glaring. Those issues appear to be fixed with this 2015 team.

Better bullpen and better defense have been the ingredients to dominating Clemson since 2010. It appears that the Gamecocks have those ingredients again this year which should make for a successful weekend. A word of caution though, Clemson is a very talented team. D1Baseball picked Clemson as their ACC Omaha sleeper. This is what they had to say about Clemson:

Clemson underachieved with a talented roster in 2014, sneaking into the NCAA tournament as one of the final teams in the field and going 0-2 in the Nashville Regional. The Tigers haven’t won a regional since their 2010 trip to Omaha, so this is an important season for coach Jack Leggett’s program. Clemson has the talent to make a deep postseason run if its sophomores and juniors progress as hoped. The Tigers should be outstanding defensively up the middle, with a premium defensive catcher (Chris Okey), an athletic playmaker at second base (Eli White), a rangy shortstop whose arm should benefit from offseason surgery (Tyler Krieger) and a speedy, instinctive, aggressive center fielder (Tyler Slaton). Sophomores Okey, White and 3B Weston Wilson all look poised to take major steps forward offensively after adding strength, and Wilson reminds the coaching staff of former Tiger and first-round pick Richie Shaffer. Clemson also expects key contributions from 1B Andrew Cox and smooth-swinging DH Reed Rohlman. The centerpiece of the lineup is RF Steven Duggar, who is growing into power and posted a strong summer in the Cape Cod League. LF Chase Pinder, the brother of former Virginia Tech star Chad Pinder, is a gamer with a knack for producing hard line drives to all fields, and he could hit the ground running. On the mound, Clemson should have a reliable pair of lefties atop the rotation in Matthew Crownover and Zack Erwin, who both feature advanced feel for three pitches. RHPs Jake Long and Clate Schmidt will battle for the No. 3 starter spot; both have plenty of arm strength and are working to improve their command and consistency. RHPs Drew Moyer, Clay Bates and Patrick Andrews (back from Tommy John surgery) give the Tigers a trio of power arms to anchor the bullpen.

Prediction: Carolina wins two of three including one dramatic late inning comeback.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tyler Webb Impressing the Yankees

Add Tyler Webb to the list of Gamecocks who could be in the majors at some point this year making an impact. 

Gamecocks vs Clemson Baseball Preview: Will Crowe Moves Up

Clarke Schmidt Could Start Sunday

UPDATED*** Changes in the Gamecock rotation as Will Crowe has moved up to pitch on Friday. Jack Wynkoop will move to Saturday and Sunday has yet to be announced. Josh Reagan has been the Sunday starter but as of right now the Gamecocks have listed it as TBA.

This appears to open the door for Clarke Schmidt to start on Sunday. We said last week that we project the weekend SEC schedule rotation to be Crowe, Wynkoop and Schmidt. Chad Holbrook looks like he is open to the idea of getting that rotation set up for Clemson as well. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

John Farrell Praises JBJ

Yesterday we updated you on the status of Jackie Bradley Jr with the Boston Red Sox, today there is more news coming out of Red Sox camp. Manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington came out today and said it is a three way battle for the starting center-field spot for the Red Sox. 

That battle will be between Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and of course JBJ. As we mentioned yesterday, JBJ appears to be the odd man out, at least for this season. Rusney Castillo signed a $72 million contract last season while Betts has passed JBJ on the Red Sox prospect charts. More than likely JBJ will spend most of the year in AAA. That didn't stop Red Sox manager John Farrell from praising Bradley. Here is what Farrell had to say along with some quotes from JBJ:

“He’s working to establish himself more as an offensive player,” manager John Farrell said. “In my mind, he’s the best center fielder in baseball. I’m not afraid of saying that. He’s an extremely talented guy. There have been some offensive challenges, but we don’t deny what he can do. And he can play center field as good as anybody.” 

Farrell said he is encouraged by what he has seen from Bradley at the plate early in camp. 

“It’s a more compact swing,” Farrell said. “He’s not looking to pull the ball or trying to lift the ball, as I might have seen last year. Jackie might disagree with that. But I saw a guy who tried to hit the ball in the air a little bit more. He’s back in the middle of the field. It’s more of a line-drive approach. It’s more to maybe his swing that’s natural to him.” 

Bradley, who turns 25 on April 19, certainly sounded like a player who expects to have a chance to win a job. 

“Confidence level has never been an issue for me,” he said. “Even on my toughest days, my confidence will never waver. Nothing but focus and determination from me. I just have to continue to do what I normally do. Head down and getting at it.” 

All three outfielders still have minor league options, meaning they can be sent to Triple-A without being exposed to waivers.

Cherington said the Red Sox have all spring to sort those things out. A trade remains a possibility, although Cherington said he envisions a scenario that all seven outfielders will still be with the organization when the season opens April 6. 

“We see ourselves seeing what’s out there tomorrow,” Cherington said. “We don’t have to think about those decisions yet, so we’re not going to spend lot of time and energy on it. It gets in the way of what we need to accomplish this spring.” 


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jackie Bradley Jr Update

There was a report last week that the Braves were interested in trading for Jackie Bradley Jr. While true, it doesn't look like that will be happening anytime soon. The Braves did contact the Red Sox early in the offseason about Bradley but a deal could not be reached and the talks died. According to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston, a source in on the talks indicated that the Sox still hold Bradley in very high regard.

Bradley is a long shot to make the Red Sox active roster out of Spring Training this year. The Sox outfield is loaded. Hanley Ramirez was signed in the offseason to play left field. Rusney Castillo was signed towards the end of last season to play centerfield. Shane Victorino appears healthy and ready to be back in right field. Mookie Betts passed Bradley on the Red Sox prospect ladder last year and he is in the mix for a starting outfield spot as well.  Then there is Allen Craig who plays the corner outfield spots and first base.

JBJ will likely start the year in AAA and play everyday. He needs at bats more than anything. The Red Sox need to evaluate him further. Next year the Sox may have two open outfield spots and Red Sox management don't appear ready to give up on Bradley just yet. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Inside the Numbers: Fantastic Freshmen!

Alex Destino

The Gamecocks went 4-0 this week as the freshman stood out. Alex Destino is a freshman cleanup hitter playing for a ranked team in the SEC. He has been as good as advertised. Destino has two homers on the season and both were important. These weren't meaningless homers when the game was out of reach. These were homers that changed the game.

Clarke Schmidt, another freshman picked up two wins in relief this week and it is clear that he could be the answer for one of the weekend rotation spots. Will he get the start this Sunday at home against Clemson? That has yet to be announced. Look for rotation order of Will Crowe, Jack Wynkoop and Schmidt real soon.

While the freshmen have looked good, so have the sophomores. Taylor Widener looks to be a lights out closer while the Conway Kid, Jordan Gore is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Not only is this team talented but they are very young. The program has definitely reloaded!

2/24/15 - Davidson - 4 p.m. 
2/27/15 - at Clemson - 6:30 p.m. 
2/28/15 - vs. Clemson (at Fluor Field) - 2:30 p.m. 
3/1/15 - Clemson - Noon



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Obama Wants Your Gamecock Club Money

Well...not exactly but President Obama has submitted his new budget proposal which includes the elimination of the tax breaks on college booster club donations.

As many of you know, your donation to the Gamecock Club gets you points which enable you access to season tickets for all Gamecock sports. These donations can be written off on your taxes up to 80%. The new budget proposal would end that write off. It is estimated the Government would save $2.5 billion over ten years with the elimination of this tax break. Will this effect how much people donate? 

Read more about this on Bloomburg Business