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College : : Story
Columbia SR: Who has the edge?
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Friday, June 10, 2011

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SUPER REGIONAL COVERAGE: SCHEDULE/RESULTS | PAIRINGS MESSAGE BOARDS


After the many miles traveled by some teams last week, the Road to Omaha either continues or comes to an abrupt halt for 16 teams this weekend.

With the NCAA Super Regionals around the corner, we take an in-depth look at how each team stacks up against the other.

In our last NCAA Super Regional preview, we took an inside look at the Charlottesville Super Regional. Now it's time to take an in-depth look at the Columbia Super Regional, which features Connecticut (45-18) and South Carolina (47-14).

For Connecticut, this weekend is all about continuing where it left off last weekend at the Clemson Regional. The Huskies played an exceptional brand of baseball after dropping the postseason opener to Coastal Carolina. The Huskies need to keep up the pressure offensively while the defense needs to be stable against the opportunistic Gamecocks.

For South Carolina, the weekend is all about playing the brand of baseball it has played the entire season. The Gamecocks have had a plethora of injury setbacks this season, but they've responded in impressive fashion each time someone has gone down. The Gamecocks have a tough chore against Connecticut's pitching, so the weekend series likely hinges on the offense establishing an early presence.

WHO HAS THE EDGE? Austin | Chapel Hill | Charlottesville | Gainesville | Nashville | Santa Clara | Tallahassee |

Columbia Super Regional: Who has the edge?
Starting pitching

This is yet another area where the Huskies and Gamecocks enter the weekend in fantastic shape. The Huskies and Gamecocks both have outstanding ace pitchers in Matt Barnes for Connecticut and Michael Roth for South Carolina, but it's the Gamecocks that, overall, have the advantage. Barnes is having an amazing season, sitting at a a 1.62 ERA in 116 2/3 innings. He has struck out 111 and walked 31 and teams are hitting him at a .177 clip. Greg Nappo was fantastic in the Clemson Regional last weekend and has a 3.55 ERA in 88 1/3 innings. However, his control needs to be better this weekend. He has struck out 52 and walked 40 and teams are hitting him at a .216 clip. Brian Ward, meanwhile, has a 3.28 ERA in 60 1/3 innings. He has struck out 53 and walked 27 and teams are hitting him at a .231 clip ... South Carolina ace pitcher Michael Roth might not be the best prospect out there, but he's an excellent college pitcher. The talented left-hander is having an incredible campaign. He has started 16 games and has a 1.10 ERA in 114 2/3 innings. He has struck out 93 and walked 29 and teams are hitting him at a .214 clip. Other weekend starters Colby Holmes and Forrest Koumas have risen to the occasion this season. Holmes has a 3.76 ERA in 76 2/3 innings. He has struck out 68 and walked 20 and teams are hitting him at a .230 clip, while Koumas has a 3.07 ERA in 67 1/3 innings with teams hitting him at a .234 clip. He has struck out 59 and walked 28 this spring. It'll be interesting to see which rotation performs at a higher level this weekend.
Bullpen

Both Connecticut and South Carolina enter the weekend with solid bullpens, but we're giving an extremely slight edge to the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks have several solid arms to throw out there, and also have arguably one of the nation's top two or three closers in right-hander Matt Price. Price has appeared in 30 games and has a 2.25 ERA in 48 innings with 17 saves. Teams are hitting him at a .202 clip. John Taylor has been fantastic this season and has a 1.32 ERA in 61 1/3 innings, while Jose Mata has a 1.82 ERA in 22 appearances, Steven Neff has a 2.45 ERA in 12 appearances, Tyler Webb has a 3.21 ERA in 20 appearances and Bryan Harper has a 5.40 ERA in 18 1/3 innings ... As with the Gamecocks, the Huskies aren't exactly lacking quality arms. Closer Kevin Vance is having a sensational campaign. He has appeared in 26 games, recorded 13 saves and has a 1.57 ERA in 28 2/3 innings with teams hitting him at just a .130 clip. David Fischer has appeared in 23 games and has a 1.68 ERA in 48 1/3 innings, while Dan Feehan has a 2.36 ERA in 34 1/3 innings and Will Jolin has a 3.76 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. Teams are hitting Feehan and Jolin at .220 and .206 clips, respectively.
Offense

The Huskies might not have the edge in many key categories, but they certainly have the edge at the plate. Connecticut is a solid hitting team and is sizzling hot after a strong showing at the Clemson Regional. The Huskies are hitting ..311 with first baseman Mike Nemeth and outfielder George Springer leading the way. Nemeth is hitting .363 with 15 doubles, three home runs and 50 RBIs, while Springer, drafted in the first round of the MLB draft earlier this week, is hitting .350 with 23 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs and 77 RBIs. Also keep an eye on LJ Mazzilli, Nick Ahmed, red-hot Ryan Fuller and John Andreoli. Mazilli is hitting .346 with three home runs and 32 RBIs, Ahmed is hitting .333 with 11 doubles, two home runs and 35 RBIs, Fuller is hitting .321 with 27 doubles, six home runs and 58 RBIs and Andreoli is hitting .319 with 31 RBIs ... The Gamecocks don't quite have the overall firepower of the Huskies, but they still have plenty of solid bats to watch for this weekend. South Carolina enters the weekend hitting .296 with hard-hitting sophomore Christian Walker leading the way with a .361 average, 18 doubles, nine home runs and 58 RBIs. Steven Neff has been a power boost with five home runs in just 62 at bats, while Scott Wingo, Brady Thomas and Evan Marzilli are other sluggers to watch. Wingo is hitting .335 with seven doubles, four home runs and 25 RBIs, Thomas is hitting .310 with four home runs and 37 RBIs and Marzilli is hitting .302 with three home runs and 30 RBIs.
Defense

The defensive difference between the two clubs goes well beyond the numbers. The Huskies enter the weekend with a .962 fielding percentage while the Gamecocks enter the series with a solid .974 fielding percentage. Connecticut catcher Doug Elliot has started all but one game this season and is a solid backstop for the Huskies, first baseman Mike Nemeth has been consistent and shortstop Nick Ahmed is one of the nation's premier fielders at his position. However, second baseman L.J. Mazzilli can be prone to mistakes at times while third baseman Ryan Fuller enters the weekend with a gaudy .877 fielding percentage. The Huskies have a serviceable outfield with George Springer, John Andreoli and Billy Ferriter leading the way. The Huskies must field cleanly to advance this weekend ... The Gamecocks have been stable in the field the entire spring. The Gamecocks have had to play musical chairs behind the plate because of an injury to Brady Thomas, who now is serving as the designated hitter. Robert Beary, though, is doing a serviceable job. First baseman Christian Walker is solid at his position, second baseman Scott Wingo is extremely smooth, shortstop Peter Mooney is solid and Adrian Morales, as compared to Fuller's .877 fielding percentage, enters the weekend with a .946 fielding percentage. The Gamecocks are without outstanding athlete Jackie Bradley Jr. in the outfield, but Evan Marzilli, Jake Williams and Steven Neff are doing adequate jobs.
Intangibles

Connecticut dropped its NCAA Regional opener to Coastal Carolina in dismal fashion last week, but has been a completely different team since. The Huskies are playing their best brand of baseball and have a load of confidence entering the weekend. However, South Carolina definitely gets the advantage in this category. The Gamecocks are at home this weekend, where they've compiled an impressive 34-4 record this season. Additionally, the Gamecocks are the defending national champions and know exactly what it takes to get to the College World Series and win a title. Connecticut can't yet say the same. The Gamecocks' experience in this situation gives them a substantial advantage in this area.


Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at kendall@perfectgame.org



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