COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's weekend rotation has seen one change this year. However, don't look for another in the immediate future.
Sam Dyson might have struggled mightily in his start last Saturday at Vanderbilt. Perhaps the junior right-hander, 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA, hasn't really hit his stride at any point this season.
But Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner isn't in the market for a Saturday starter. Not yet, anyway.
"At this point, I'm not giving up on Sam Dyson," Tanner said earlier this week. "His track record says he can be very special at times."
With Dyson looking to get on track, No. 10 South Carolina hosts No. 14 Mississippi for a three-game series beginning this evening at Carolina Stadium.
The Gamecocks (26-7, 9-3 Southeastern Conference), who won Wednesday night at The Citadel, have won five of their last six, seven of nine and 20 of 23.
The Rebels (23-11, 7-5) are the first of two consecutive ranked teams coming to Columbia for a weekend series. Alabama is up next.
USC right-hander Blake Cooper (6-0, 2.85) will face Mississippi All-America candidate Drew Pomeranz (6-0, 1.57) in the opener at 7 p.m.
Then, Saturday, it's Dyson against a formidable foe, Aaron Barrett (6-1, 1.90).
"He's had a couple of rough starts," Tanner said of Dyson, a 10th-round pick in last year's draft who opted to return to school. "That's OK. We're certainly not looking at this point to make a change in the rotation. He can be a guy to make a difference in the second half of the season."
Control isn't really the issue for Dyson. He's walked just six batters in 38 1/3 innings, although he has hit a staff-high seven batters.
No, if anything, Dyson seems to be locating too well -- as in, pitching too much in the strike zone. He has allowed 45 hits, more than a hit an inning. Batters are hitting .287 against him. His ERA (25 earned runs) is the second-highest on the staff, easily the highest of any regular starter.
Dyson has a sensational fastball that pops the mitt in the mid-to-upper-90s, but his secondary pitches are well behind that heater. That forces Dyson to lean on the fastball too much, and that's why he's getting hit.
If he begins to find his off-speed stuff, and gains confidence in it, Tanner's theory about better days ahead could play out.
Tanner and pitching coach Mark Calvi showed a much quicker trigger when it came to his Sunday guy. But that's because the Gamecocks were using a freshman, left-hander Tyler Webb, when the season began.
The desire to have a lefty in the rotation was trumped by experience and poise when senior Jay Brown took Webb's place. Brown wasn't great in his first weekend start against Mississippi State, but he rebounded to pitch 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a series-clinching victory at Vanderbilt.
Brown (2-0, 2.84) allowed only two baserunners, two hits, in the start.
"With Jay Brown, you kind of know what you're going to get," Tanner said. "Jay Brown's going to keep you alive in the game. He's going to compete, throw enough strikes."
There's a different level of confidence in sending a senior out there on Sunday.
"My feeling was, we've got the right guy out there," Tanner said of his emotions before the Sunday game at Vanderbilt. "We've got the right guy on the mound. You either win or go down with him."
That feeling extends, too, to Saturday -- and Dyson. Tanner is hopeful for the former rather than the latter.