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Another rotation shuffle as South Carolina looks to overcome slow SEC start

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Another rotation shuffle as South Carolina looks to overcome slow SEC start

March 28, 2019

Starting pitchers (Friday): USC — Fr. RHP Daniel Lloyd (2-1, 4.32 ERA); Auburn — So. RHP Tanner Burns (3-0, 1.41 ERA)

Starting pitchers (Saturday): USC — Jr. RHP Reid Morgan (2-0, 2.56 ERA); Auburn — Fr. LHP Brooks Fuller (1-0, 1.62 ERA)

Starting pitchers (Sunday): USC — TBA; Auburn — TBA

Been here before: For the second year in a row, South Carolina is off to a 1-5 start in the SEC. Last season, that worked out fine, with the Gamecocks surging to a 17-13 conference mark and berth in the NCAA Super Regionals, but coach Mark Kingston doesn’t want his players complacent with that record.

“You say it (about last year), you don’t talk about it too much because you don’t want to get into the habit of thinking a 1-5 start is OK,” Kingston said. “You make sure they know it in a way that they know they can bounce back, but you also don’t want them to think it’s OK either.”

Another Friday freshman: Kingston and pitching coach Skylar Meade are shuffling their weekend rotation once again, switching freshman Daniel Lloyd in for freshman Wesley Sweatt as the starter on Friday night.

“The stats are very clear that Wesley was in the ones in his ERA out of the bullpen, and as a starter not so much. Some decisions are pretty easy to make,” Kingston said of the move. “Danny has done enough now in his smaller roles and he did fine on the Tuesday night that he started that he gets a shot and we’ll see how he does.”

The Gamecocks’ pitching depth has been ravaged by injuries this season, and at this point, Kingston is sticking with his decision to keep his best starter, junior Reid Morgan, on Saturday to theoretically give his bullpen a day of rest between games it will likely be heavily leaned upon.

Cutting down on Ks: When it comes to home runs, no Power 5 team in the country hits more long balls than South Carolina, which also ranks 15th nationally in slugging percentage.

But Kingston is well aware that those power numbers had led to relatively few runs, especially as of late. Hitting better with runners in scoring position and cutting down on strikeouts — USC has struck out more than any other team in the SEC — were the main points of emphasis this past week.

“We’re working on it mentally, physically and mechanically. It’s very clear to everybody in this building that is what needs to change and improve,” Kingston said of his team’s strikeout issues.

It’s not one single issue that’s been leading to the Gamecocks’ 250 strikeouts in 25 games, a pace that would smash the program record.

“Some guys need to do a better job of shortening their swings with two strikes and getting team at-bats, some guys need to stop swinging at balls out of the strike zone, some guys need to be more aggressive on balls away from them. It’s a variety of things,” Kingston said.

Things won’t be easy against an Auburn staff full of power arms, Kingston acknowledged, especially against Tigers ace Tanner Burns, who already had a 15-strikeout performance to his name this season.

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