North Carolina typically would have a decent-sized edge over South Carolina when it comes to the starting rotation, but things just might be different this weekend with the Tar Heels having to reshuffle things after throwing a couple of starting pitchers in relief last weekend in the Chapel HIll Regional finale against Florida Atlantic.
Usual UNC Friday starting pitcher Kent Emanuel is on the shelf until at least Saturday, his expected start day for the Tar Heels this weekend. Emanuel is being pushed back a day for a good reason. He started last Saturday against Towson, throwing 124 pitches in a win over the Tigers. Meanwhile, he threw in relief two days later, 51 pitches in 1 2/3 innings against Florida Atlantic. For the year, Emanuel has a 2.70 ERA in 120 innings, along with 88 strikeouts and 27 walks. Meanwhile, he has good overall stuff with a fastball anywhere from 88-92, along with good secondary stuff.
The Tar Heels will go with right-handed pitchers Benton Moss or Chris Munnelly, or left-handed pitcher Hobbs Johnson in the series opener, while whoever doesn't start the series opener out of Moss and Johnson likely gets the starting nod in the series finale.
Moss has a 3.78 ERA in 85 2/3 innings, along with 89 strikeouts and 33 walks. Moss has good overall stuff, but tends to be a little erratic at times from a command standpoint. Meanwhile, Johnson had an injury earlier this season, but has rebounded quite nicely with a solid campaign, sitting with a 2.09 ERA in 77 1/3 innings, along with 71 strikeouts and 46 walks.
While it's very likely Moss or Johnson starts the series opener, Munnelly definitely is the wild card. The Tar Heels could choose to trot him out there after he threw just 46 pitches in three innings of work against Florida Atlantic earlier this week.
Though North Carolina's pitching situation is in limbo leading up to the weekend, with an official rotation announcement expected sometime Thursday, the Gamecocks are pretty much set for the weekend with left-handers Nolan Belcher, Jordan Montgomery and Jack Wynkoop leading the charge.
Belcher is Mr. Crafty on the mound for the Gamecocks. Belcher isn't a big guy who will blow pitches by hitters, but he has good pitchability and keeps the ball in the strike zone with good location. Belcher struggled in the SEC tournament two weeks ago, but bounced back last weekend against Saint Louis, striking out six, walking none and allowing a run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings of work.
Montgomery is a very intriguing arm. He's tall and somewhat imposing, and had an impressive freshman campaign for the Gamecocks. Montgomery typically sat in the upper-80s for the Gamecocks last season, but was up to 91 on my radar gun at the SEC tournament. Montgomery has a 1.67 ERA in 70 innings, along with 57 strikeouts and 17 walks, as well as a .234 opponent batting average.
Last but not least, Wynkoop has been a very impressive freshman arm for the Gamecocks. Again, like Montgomery last season, Wynkoop typically sits in the mid-to-upper 80s, but he's been consistent with a 2.92 ERA in 61 2/3 innings, along with 36 strikeouts and 11 walks.