COLUMBIA – Good pitching beats good hitting. South Carolina has proved it on numerous occasions over the past four years.
The No. 18 Gamecocks, again two wins from Omaha, will try to do it one more time this weekend with the same formula they have used all season – Lefty, Lefty, Lefty.
Heading to homer-happy Boshamer Stadium (at least, regional opponent Florida Atlantic surely broke out the lumber), USC (42-18) is set to face top national seed North Carolina (55-9). As usual, the Tar Heels are deep throughout the lineup, pitching rotation and bullpen, regarded as one of the most talented teams in the country and were considered a near-lock for the College World Series since the preseason.
So why does USC feel confident? Several reasons.
One, it’s the Gamecocks, not the Tar Heels, that have made the CWS their personal playground over the past three years. They know what must be done in the postseason to advance – just look at the increased energy they brought to their NCAA Regional and the way they correctly performed all of the little things.
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Two, the way that FAU took the Tar Heels to the brink, over and over again, showed that any opponent doesn’t have to be intimidated by the stark look of UNC. Sure, the Heels won the game and advanced, but the Owls didn’t play afraid.
Three, and most importantly, USC has the match-up advantage. Like it has since 2010, the pitching staff is anchored by a left-hander. And this year, it’s anchored by five left-handers.
“We just think it’s funny, because it’s all shapes and sizes with us,” middle relief ace Adam Westmoreland recently said. “You’ve got anyone from (Nolan) Belcher’s size to as tall as (Tyler) Webb and (Jordan Montgomery) and anywhere in between. We kind of pick at each other because for the most part, we all throw the same.”
They’ll all take their turn against UNC’s lineup, which bats a collective .310, the 13th-best total in the NCAA. And which starts six left-handed hitters.
With starting catcher Matt Roberts sidelined with a broken thumb, the Tar Heels are expected to start Parks Jordan in left field as usual left fielder