Clemson vs South Carolina: The Biggest Stage and Brightest Lights

Cam Cannarella Jason Priester All Clemson

One of college baseball’s best rivalries is set to resume, as Clemson and South Carolina will do battle in a three-game weekend series.

While the No. 24 Gamecocks have won nine straight to open the season, the Tigers come in reeling. After winning the first four games of the season, Clemson has now dropped four consecutive contests and sits at just 4-4. It’s the programs worst start since 2003.

Who – South Carolina (9-0) vs. Clemson (4-4)
Best Ranking – USC – No. 23 D1Baseball, USA Today; CU – NR
When – Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (1 p.m.), Sunday (1:30 p.m.)
Where – Clemson, S.C. (Doug Kingsmore Stadium) Friday; Greenville, S.C. (Fluor Field) Saturday; Columbia, S.C. (Founders Park) Sunday
Watch – ACC Network Extra (Friday), SEC Network+ (Saturday, Sunday)

This will be Erik Bakich’s first taste of the rivalry as a head coach, although he was a part of it back in 2002, as a member of former head coach Jack Leggett’s staff. However, he is well-versed in the history of the rivalry, including the disdain between the two programs, and is well aware of what is at stake.

“This is the best rivalry in college baseball,” Bakich said. “It is a privilege to say you get to compete in that and be a part of that. We know that the stage is the biggest, and the lights are the brightest. It’s Clemson and South Carolina. Two programs, two fanbases, and two teams who don’t like each other. And you know what, that’s a good thing. It’s a good rivalry for our state and good for our state, and it’s good for college baseball when both programs are good and competing to be there at the end.”

When Bakich looks at the Gamecocks, he doesn’t see many weaknesses.

“They’re a power team,” he said. “They’ve got guys with big arms, mid to upper 90s. They’ve got power hitting throughout their lineup. They’ve taken care of business with every team that they’ve played. There’s something to be said for that.”

Overall Record – Clemson leads 185-143-2 (1899-2022)
Record at Clemson – Clemson leads 102-46 (1907-2022)
Record at Neutral – Clemson leads 13-12 (1899-2022)
Record at South Carolina – South Carolina leads 85-70-2 (1900-2022)

This will also mark the return of Monte Lee. After serving as Clemson’s head coach the past six seasons, Lee now serves as one of the top assistants on Mark Kingston’s staff.

With Friday starter Ryan Ammons out for Clemson, the Tigers’ starting rotation will look a little different than it has the first two weekends of the season. Saturday starter Austin Gordon gets the nod on Friday, with freshman Tristan Smith starting on Saturday in Greenville. Bakich has yet to name a starter for Sunday’s series finale in Columbia.

Friday – Will Sanders (USC) vs. Austin Gordon (CU)
Saturday – Tristan Smith (CU) vs. Noah Hall (USC)
Sunday – TBA (CU) vs. Jack Mahoney (USC)

After sweeping the Gamecocks last year, their first since 1996, Clemson has now won six of the past eight series against their in-state rival.

Although inconsistency from the pitching staff, untimely errors and mistakes on the basepaths have plagued Bakich’s team during the early part of the season.

If the Tigers are going to have success against South Carolina this weekend, they’ll need to play better.

“This team is better than this, and we will be better,” Bakich said. “We will be better, I can promise you that. We will be relentless in our approach to make sure we have the right guys out there, and we are playing fundamental Clemson baseball and not making the mental errors that we are making and putting a winning product on the field. That is what this team is capable of, and that is what we expect around here.”

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