Originally written on Saturday Night Slant  |  Last updated 5/16/12
Austin Nola

LSU travels to Columbia, SC this weekend for what is probably the biggest regular season series in the last three years.  The Tigers sit just one game back of Kentucky in the SEC standings and a half game back of South Carolina.  With a series win, LSU is all but assured a National Top Eight seed.   With a series loss, their hopes for getting one are nearly squashed.   With the SEC Tournament next week, all weekend series across the league start on Thursday this weekend. 

LSU is coming off a 9-6 victory over Nicholls on Tuesday.  The team is in tact, with the exception of catcher Ty Ross who continues to be out after having an emergecny appendectomy over the weekend.   So expect Jordy Snikeris to work behind the plate once again.  Snikeris has been fine at the plate recently, but he really struggled defensively against Vanderbilt.  They stole bases at will, and he'll have to do a better job of throwing out runners against Carolina.

With the exception of Chris Cotton, LSU's bullpen was not their usual self last weekend against Vanderbilt.  Nick Goody has spoiled us all into thinking he would never give up another run, but he blew the save on Sunday against Vandy and ultimately got the loss.  More concerning is that he had another less than stellar outing against Nicholls.   It goes without saying that LSU needs Goody at his best in Columbia.  

South Carolina has one of the league's top pitchers in Michael Roth, who was a post season hero for the ***** last year on their way to their second straight national championship.  His matchup with Gausman on Thursday night should be one of the best matchups of the regular season in all of college baseball.  Roth is a lefty that doesn't throw all that hard.  But he's extremely effective as his .194 batting average against indicates.   Other than Roth, South Carolina is expected to start Jordan Montgomery, who is a lefty, as well as righty Colby Holmes.   Against Nicholls' lefty starter, we saw Mason Katz move to first base with Alex Edward moving to right field and Jackson Slaid at DH.  That put Tyler Moore on the bench.  It will be interesting to see whether Paul Maineri does the same this weekend against Carolina's two lefty starters.  Slaid started this season as an everyday player, but has faded away to the end of the bench recently.  Moore will almost certainly be in there at first base against righty pitching. 

To gain some more perspective on the Gamecocks' Baseball team, I asked my Bloguin counterpart over at The Leftover Hot Dog to provide some insight.  They do a great job over there at covering Gamecock athletics and baseball in particular.  I really appreciate their time in answering some questions for me about the weekend. 

1.  Anyone who watched last year's postseason knows how good Michael Roth is.   Has he been as dominating as his numbers suggest?  (5-0, 2.60 ERA, .194 BA against)

Roth is the heart beat of the USC baseball team. He sets the tempo for the Gamecocks. He has pitched 86.2 innings and has yielded 27 walks to go with 66 strikeouts. Opponents are batting just .194 against him. The Gamecocks need for him to throw a pitching gem against LSU so they can get Game 1 under their belt.

2.  Christian Walker is really the only guy that jumps off the stat sheet offensively (other than Dantzler's power).  Has it been a balance on offense with a new guy stepping up every night?  That kind of thing?  Or is it just a pitching/defense dominated team?

Honestly, this team finds a way to win. It has been a different guy each night doing the right things to help usher in a win.  But this team is balanced overall. South Carolina leads the SEC in fielding with a .980 fielding percentage, they rank fourth in earned run average at 3.18 and eighth in hitting with a .275 batting average. The Gamecock offense also leads the league with 213 walks and the Gamecock pitchers are the league's best in opposing batting average (.223).

3.  Carolina has lost consecutive Saturday contests.  Is the Saturday starter, Jordan Montgomery, struggling?

I would not say that. The Gamecocks have had to adjust with pitcher Colby Holmes out with a injury.  Montgomery has filled in nicely as he is 4-1 overall but the enitre pitching staff has had to step up.

4.  It looks like several guys have been used to start on Sundays recently.  Who can we expect this weekend (on Saturday) and what should we expect from them?

Right now, USC has declared the starter as TBD. Don't be surprised to see Colby Holmes on the mound as he is 6-0 and wants the ball. As noted earlier, he had a slight injury but is better now. Having him start could give USC the emotional boost they need to claim the series.

5.  Anything else to know about the team right now? Any guys injured or on crazy hot streaks, slumps, etc? 

I'd mention two players that have to produce for USC to win this series and that is Christian Walker and Tanner English. Walker is on a 7-game hitting streak and English leads the Gamecocks with 19 multi-hit games. He is also second on the team in batting average with a .315 mark (58-for-184). These two have to continue their hot bats.

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