USC coach Ray Tanner is still trying to decide who he will be his starting pitcher in tomorrow’s elimination game against either Oklahoma or Clemson. The Tigers and Sooners will complete their rain/lightning delayed game this afternoon at 4:30. Clemson is in control with a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning.
Tanner plans to make a decision at some point today although there is no guarantee Tanner will reveal his choice until tomorrow. Logic would indicate that Tanner would prefer to wait until he knows if he will be facing Clemson or Oklahoma before he decides on a starter.
Tanner on pitching plans
Tanner is weighing the options of Nolan Belcher, Jay Brown, Tyler Webb and Blake Cooper.
Belcher is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA this season. He was one of the main starters as a freshman last year but he hasn’t been much of a factor in meaningful games this year. Webb is a freshman that has tremendous talent although his numbers have been average this season (2-2, 4.11 ERA).
I would say these two are long shots. Webb is a wildcard, I don’t see him going against Clemson (the Tigers pounded him in the regular season) although he could match up well with Oklahoma.
Senior right hander Jay Brown (3-0, 4.44 ERA) doesn’t have the best stuff on the staff by any stretch, but he does have plenty of experience. He has pitched in some big games during his career and more often than not he has answered the call. He earned SEC pitcher of the week honors earlier this season and would be a viable option.
Tanner could probably only hope to get about five innings of work out of Brown before going to his deep and well rested bullpen.
Then there is Blake Cooper. Cooper started Sunday’s rain induced marathon game against Oklahoma. He ended up taking the loss, but he only threw 67 pitches in his five innings of work. He is the clear cut staff ace (12-2, 2.92 ERA). The question is just how effective will he be coming back on short rest.
If I were making the call I would rest Cooper another day. Make sure he is all the way back before you trot him back on the mound. I understand that it is win or go home time for the Gamecocks, but you still have to think ahead because the goal isn’t to win just one game here. You are going to have to win three more just to advance to the championship series.
If Clemson hangs on and beats Oklahoma Tanner should think about starting Webb. The 6-6 lefty has a fresh, live arm and is a matchup problem for the Sooners lefty filled lineup.
If the Sooners manage to comeback against Clemson I would start Jay Brown and hope he can keep you in the game long enough to get to the bullpen within striking distance or even with a lead. Brown has the battle scars to not be frazzled on the big stage. Belcher probably has better stuff than Brown, but Belcher is erratic and sometimes gets a little shaky when things get tough.
You need a steady hand during crunch time in Omaha.
We’ll find out soon if Tanner agrees.