COLUMBIA -- One South Carolina baseball player surmised that it's a "good" problem to have more good bats than there are spots in the lineup.

Clearly, he hasn't consulted with his coach. Ray Tanner's life expectancy has probably been shaved during the first half of the season, with the agonizing daily ritual of deciding who's playing and who's sitting.

Tanner said he's spent up to five consecutive hours tinkering with a lineup before a game.

He hit all the right buttons Sunday in South Carolina's 14-2 series-clinching clubbing of Mississippi State in front of 5,576 fans at Carolina Stadium.

Parker Bangs, Nick Ebert and Adrian Morales hadn't started in the series' first two games, but those players scored seven runs and drove in seven more on Sunday.

Bangs, Ebert and Morales all homered.

And, with a left-hander on the mound for Mississippi State (15-13, 3-6 SEC), Jeff Jones (.380) and Brady Thomas (.408) sat Sunday -- even though they had combined for nine hits and eight RBIs on Friday and Saturday.

Rolling the dice? Adhering to research? Hunches?

Whatever combo it is for Tanner and the Gamecocks, the juggling act has been working.

"I know it's got to be tough on the players, but what can you do?" Tanner said. "We've just got to plug 'em in. We've got to find guys to help us win."

That's been a checkmark so far.

South Carolina is now 22-6 and 7-2 in the SEC, in sole possession of the Eastern Division lead. The Gamecocks have won 16 of 18 games.

"This is exactly where we wanted to be," said Morales, who was 2-for-4 with a two-run double and a home run. "We had to win this series. No disrespect to Mississippi State, but we feel we're a better team than them."

That might not be the case the next two weekends. It'll at least be up for debate. The Gamecocks, after hosting the College of Charleston on Wednesday, travel to Vanderbilt (24-6, 5-4). Mississippi (21-8, 5-4) visits Columbia the following weekend.

Mississippi State's Tyler Whitney appeared to be sharper than Jay Brown in the first couple of innings, but he allowed himself to come unglued in a five-run third.

With Jackie Bradley Jr. dancing around at first base, Whitney threw over to first a half-dozen times.

Ebert said that's part of the scouting report when it comes to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs try to lengthen games, attempting to knock offenses out of rhythm.

It backfired Sunday, though, because Whitney lost his control by focusing on Bradley.

He walked Bangs on five pitches and then Ebert on four pitches.

That was enough for Mississippi State coach John Cohen to lift Whitney for senior reliever Greg Houston.

Houston's first pitch hit Adam Matthews in the back, sending a run home. Morales than doubled to right-center to plate two.

Catcher Kyle Enders then laid down a terrific squeeze bunt. Morales scored easily from third to make it 7-2 with one out in the third. That was it for Mississippi State.

Those in garnet have fingers crossed that Sunday was a breakout day for Ebert, the 2009 home run leader who's been mired in a first-half slump in 2010.

He punished a first-pitch fastball in the first inning for his second home run of the season. (Ebert called it a "sigh of relief.") He hit 23 last year.

South Carolina also needs to figure out its Sunday starter.

Senior Jay Brown wasn't all that sharp in three innings (two earned runs, 59 pitches), but freshman Matt Price looked good in five shutout innings of relief (six strikeouts, two hits).

Still, Tanner said Price isn't a candidate for the Sunday gig. He likes his versatility too much to peg him into that hole.

Brown could see another start at Vanderbilt. If Tanner wants to get a lefty in the rotation, sophomore Nolan Belcher or freshman Tyler Webb, who just lost the Sunday job, could slide back into the role.

It's just more juggling for Tanner.

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com, check out the Gamecocks blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/gamecocks and follow him on Twitter (@gamecocksblog).