No. 11 Clemson to challenge No. 3 South Carolina's stingy pitchers
Clemson baseball players and coaches are well aware that South Carolina's stingy pitching staff hasn't yielded a run in five games. Just in case, they got a fresh reminder going into their weekend series against the No. 3 Gamecocks.
Jordan Montgomery, South Carolina's junior left-hander scheduled to start Friday night in Columbia against No. 11 Clemson, is 2-0 and hasn't allowed an earned run in 12 innings.
Sophomore left-hander Jack Wynkoop is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA, and freshman right-hander Wil Crowe is 2-0 with zero earned runs allowed in 12.2 innings.
Weak competition? Sure, but Montgomery and Wynkoop were projected as two of the best pitchers in the country and have met expectations. Crowe is the SEC Freshman of the Week, one week after earning SEC Pitcher of the Week honors.
"There's no rocket science to this," Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. "We've got to be on point with all the things we do; fundamentally we've got to execute correctly. We've got to move runners around when we can, grab runs when we can. But we're not sitting around having a pow-wow about how many scoreless innings they have. They wouldn't be doing the same thing if we were in that situation."
Clemson has its own solid one-two pitching punch.
Friday night starter Daniel Gossett, a junior right-hander, is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Saturday starter Matthew Crownover, a sophomore lefty, is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA.
"We have to understand that we're a good baseball team, and obviously they're a good baseball team," Gossett said. "We can't give them more than we need to. We can beat anybody in the nation, I believe that and I think everybody on the team believes that. We have to go play baseball the way we know how to."
If it comes down to a recent history trend, South Carolina has the edge.
The Gamecocks have won 20 of the last 28 games dating to the 2007 season. South Carolina won the first and third games of the three-game series last season - with a pair of shutouts.
"We are playing the 2014 Gamecocks," Crownover said. "We're not playing the 2010 team. They've got a great program. They're a great team, a top 10 team this year. Every year is different. You can't live in the past. You've just got to go year by year, and hopefully we have a good series against them this week."
The 2014 Gamecocks haven't allowed a run in 51 innings, and the five-game shutout streak is a new school record.
South Carolina is out-hitting opponents .319 to .179.
"We've played seven games and won them all, so you have to feel good about that," Gamecocks head coach Chad Holbrook said. "As coaches, we kind of harp on some of the things we need to improve upon. Sometimes we don't smell the roses when things are going good because we just want to play better. But we have played well."
Montgomery is 2-0 against Clemson.
Or, from the Tigers' perspective, two more reasons the series is a fun challenge.
"It's not for standings," catcher Garrett Boulware said, "it's solely for bragging rights. It's about pride. It's about saying we're the better team in the state. They've obviously gotten the better of us the past couple years, but we want to beat them and they want to beat us."
Gossett said that while growing up in the Spartanburg County town of Lyman, he was a Clemson fan "invested in the South Carolina-Clemson series."
"So after I pitch on Friday, I've got Saturday and Sunday to be a kid again," Gossett said. "I get to sit back and watch awesome baseball. Being able to do that is pretty special."
Aaron Brenner contributed to this story