USC's Cooper gets the first call

USC catcher Kyle Enders (18) must contend with college baseball's top two base stealers this weekend when the Gamecocks take on Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach.

MYRTLE BEACH -- South Carolina named Blake Cooper as its opening game starter for this weekend's super regional, which begins at noon today at BB&T Coastal Field.

There's still quite a bit of intrigue, though, where Coastal Carolina's pitching plans are concerned.

Chanticleers coach Gary Gilmore said it would be a game-time decision between right-hander Anthony Meo and left-hander Cody Wheeler -- or possibly someone else.

Both front-line guys started and worked in relief in last weekend's regional.

Meo threw 120 total pitches. Wheeler tossed 172.

Meo, too, is dealing with some sort of cold this week. He went to a doctor Thursday, but said Friday he's OK.

Meo is 13-2 with a 2.63 ERA. Wheeler is 12-0 with a 3.59 ERA.

"Obviously, it's a huge concern of ours as a coaching staff," Gilmore said.

He said either Meo or Wheeler would have to convince him that they're "1,000 percent" in order to get the start today.

"One of them has to tell me they can give us 100 pitches (today), or we're going in a different direction," Gilmore said. "How we have to piecemeal it together, I don't know."

Fleet feet

The Chanticleers have the nation's top two base-stealers in center fielder Rico Noel and third baseman Scott Woodward.

Noel has 56 steals in 69 tries. Woodward has 54 steals in 61 attempts.

"My team couldn't steal 50 bases if they got locked in the ballpark," USC coach Ray Tanner quipped. "And their guys have 100-and-something between them.

"That's impressive. That's phenomenal. That's what they do. That's who they are."

USC catcher Kyle Enders has thrown out 50 percent of base-runners this season.

"Not many guys have run on Kyle," Tanner said. "He'll have to be at his best against Noel and Woodward. Those guys have tremendous numbers."

Boxing Day?

Tanner and Gilmore laughed off the idea that there's some kind of strife between them, as had been suggested during the week. Gilmore said he had some boxing gloves in the car and the coaches should spar before today's game, as a sideshow.

He was joking, of course.

"Ray Tanner is one of the very best coaches in the country," Gilmore said. There's not a coach I respect any more than him. ... There's absolutely not one single thing going on between us."

Tanner has written letters of recommendation for Gilmore when SEC jobs were open.

Play it again

Going along with that, both coaches said the door is now open to play in the regular season. Previously, because of bad blood from Coastal declaring institutional independence in 1993, USC officials had prevented scheduling the Chants.

That block was lifted earlier this year.

"It's very possible," Tanner said. "For many years, it wasn't an option. Now it seems like it's an option."

Added Gilmore: "Both of us personally, I know we'd both like it."

Who's in left?

Tanner said he would have a difficult decision today between freshman Evan Marzilli and sophomore Adam Matthews in left field.

Matthews had been the typical starter there, but Marzilli exploded for six hits in the regional.

Tanner said he would go by "feel" and judge who practiced better Friday.

Hitting the road

Offensively, South Carolina is a different team on the road than at home.

The Gamecocks hit .320, scoring 7.7 runs a game, in 15 SEC home games. They batted .248, scoring 5.3 runs a game, in 15 SEC road games.

Oddly enough, though, they were 11-4 on the road and 10-5 at home. Pitching carried the day.

"I think that's just a part of baseball," Tanner said. "Teams home records are better, for the most part, than they are on the road."

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