COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gamecock head coach Mark Kingston said it best; you can either shy away or try to attack a challenge. 11th-ranked South Carolina welcomes top-ranked Arkansas to Founders Park Thursday for a pivotal SEC showdown.
“This is a group of fighters,” added Kingston. “This team will never give in. This team does not panic when things get tough.”
Gamecock pitching might face its toughest test yet. Arkansas brings power to the plate. They lead the nation in runs scored and home runs.
“They got a lot of lefties in that lineup they can throw at you,” Kingston said. “They’re athletic. They have some strength.”
It’s a talented offensive group facing an elite pitching staff. South Carolina ranks 2nd in the SEC and 16th nationally in team ERA. Carolina’s starting pitchers welcome the battle against the best.
“They’re competitors,” Kingston said. “They’re winners. They like having the ball. They’re anxious to test themselves against one of the best offenses in the country.”
Looking to set a strong tone from the mound on Friday will be Carolina game one starter, Thomas Farr. The ace last earned a victory on March 5th against Mercer. It’s not all on the junior right-hander. Carolina’s scored three runs or less in five of his last six starts.
“It’s a matter of doing a little bit better job offensively and on the mound with him (Farr),” Kingston said. “He will get better. He’s had some great moments for us.”
For Farr, it starts with trusting what he can deliver. Kingston points to the need to minimize free passes with better command.
“Starting with the Florida series, his command has not been quite as sharp,” Kingston added. “I think he will be in a good place come game one. We have a lot of confidence in Thomas.”
South Carolina’s 1-3 in its last four weekend series openers. The Gamecocks went on to win all four of those series.
Now, it’s still too early to pack the park, but on Thursday, roughly 1400 more fans will be able to grace the stands for this upcoming series. The University recently increased fixed seating capacity to 50%. A welcomed move by the team.
“We’re loving it,” said Gamecock outfielder Andrew Eyster. “It’s going to be huge for us, and it’s going to be a loud stadium.”
Eyster and his teammates are ‘super excited’ to embrace additional fan support. Gamecock nation, even in limited numbers, has been roaring all season from the seats.
“Ballpark will be as loud as I ever heard it this weekend,” Eyster added. “It’s what we come here for. It’s what they talk about on our visits.”
Facing the number one ranked team will only add to the atmosphere.
“I don’t think it’s going to add a whole lot of pressure,” Eyster said. “But it does add a lot more meaning to this weekend for sure.”
Pending inclement weather, both teams have discussed playing a double-header on Friday if it appears the weather will not cooperate for a Saturday showdown.