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Baseball Opens SEC Play at Tennessee
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Baseball Opens SEC Play at Tennessee

by Kent Reichert

The Gamecocks and Volunteers start up the series Friday night at 6:30 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina baseball team will open Southeastern Conference play this weekend in Knoxville, Tenn., facing No. 7 Tennessee at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The series begins on Friday (March 18) at 6:30 p.m. The set continues Saturday, March 19 at noon and concludes Sunday, March 20 at 1 p.m. Friday and Sunday’s games will be on SEC Network Plus. Saturday’s game is on SEC Network with Jon Schriffen and Chris Burke on the call. All games also will be broadcast on The Game 107.5 FM with Derek Scott and Tommy Moody on the call. The Gamecocks, winners of three straight games, are coming off a 12-0, 7-inning win over Gardner-Webb on Tuesday. Brandt Belk and Kevin Madden homered in the win, while the Gamecock pitching held the Runnin’ Bulldogs to just five hits.

The Volunteers are one of the hottest teams in Division I baseball, starting the season 16-1 and winners of eight straight games. Tennessee is coming off a 7-1 win over Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday night. Trey Lipscomb drove in six runs with a pair of home runs. Lipscomb has eight home runs and 34 RBI while the Volunteers have hit 46 home runs this season, which leads the country. On the mound, Friday starter Chase Burns is 3-0 with a 0.45 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched.

Carolina holds a 66-40 all-time series lead on Tennessee. The Volunteers took 2-of-3 games from the Gamecocks in Columbia to end the regular season in 2021. Carolina won the Friday game, 3-2, as Brady Allen hit a three-run home run and Brett Kerry struck out eight in a seven-inning start.

South Carolina Noah Hall (Jr. RHP) 0-2, 9.42 ERA, 14.1 IP, 9 BB, 18 SO
Tennessee Chase Burns (Fr. RHP) 3-0, 0.45 ERA, 20.0 IP, 7 BB, 25 SO

South Carolina Will Sanders (So. RHP) 3-0, 2.52 ERA, 25.0 IP, 8 BB, 28 SO
Tennessee Chase Dollander (So. RHP) 2-0, 3.79 ERA, 19.0 IP, 5 BB, 37 SO

South Carolina Matthew Becker (Fr. LHP) 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 12.0 IP, 7 BB, 23 SO
Tennessee Drew Beam (Fr. RHP) 3-0, 1.59 ERA, 17.0 IP, 6 BB, 16 SO
Brandt Belk is hitting .588 (10-for-17) with nine runs scored, three doubles, two home runs and six RBI in the last five games heading into the weekend. Belk took the first pitch he saw on Tuesday night vs. Gardner-Webb and deposited it into the visitor’s bullpen. Belk had four hits in Saturday’s game against Texas and keyed the Gamecock offense in a doubleheader sweep of the Longhorns on Sunday afternoon. On the season, Belk is hitting .327 with four doubles and 12 RBI.

Carolina won both games of a doubleheader and secured a series win over No. 1 Texas on March 13, winning the opening game, 4-2, before taking the nightcap, 9-4. In the three-game series, the Gamecock bats hit .344 with a .417 on-base percentage. Brandt Belk led the team with eight hits while Braylen Wimmer was 6-for-11 with three RBI. Will Sanders and Matthew Becker had solid six-inning starts, with Becker striking out 11 in the second game of the double dip. Carolina won a series over a No. 1 team for the first time since April 15-17, 2011, when Carolina won two games against No. 1 Vanderbilt.

Michael Braswell is tied for fourth in the SEC with a .429 batting average while Andrew Eyster is eighth at .406. Braswell is tied for third with 27 hits, is tied for seventh with 14 walks and is fourth with a .538 on-base percentage. Andrew Eyster is tied for fifth with 26 hits and is tied for third with 23 RBI. Braylen Wimmer is tied for sixth with five stolen bases. On the mound, Will Sanders is tied for third with 25 innings pitched. Braswell is tied for second with three saves and Aidan Hunter is tied for second with eight appearances.

The Gamecocks end the road trip on Tuesday, March 22 as Carolina visits The Citadel. First pitch is at 7 p.m. at Joe Riley Park and the game will be on ESPN+.