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No. 1 Texas to face South Carolina in delayed series

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Rain in the Columbia area on Friday has pushed the series start back to Saturday with a doubleheader scheduled for Sunday.

Texas baseball

The start time for the opener of the series between the No. 1 Texas Longhorns and South Carolina Gamecocks has already been changed twice with Saturday’s season opener now scheduled for noon Central and a doubleheader beginning at 12:30 p.m. Central to follow on Sunday.

Saturday’s game will mark the seventh all-time meeting between the two programs, with Texas currently undefeated — the Longhorns swept the Gamecocks in Austin last season and also have three wins over South Carolina in Omaha, including wins for national titles in 1975 and 2002.

South Carolina sits at 7-4 on the season in the midst of a four-game losing streak that includes a series sweep by Clemson and a 15-7 midweek demolition by a 4-9 Xavier team that started its season with nine straight losses.

After losing four starting position players, five key reserves, two starting pitchers, and three relief pitchers, the Gamecocks are still trying to develop a regular starting lineup and starting rotation before SEC plays begins — there are only six regular starters and no announced pitchers for the second and third games against the Longhorns.

Shortstop Michael Braswell is off to a strong start, hitting .449, but for a three-hole hitter, he hasn’t shown much power with only five extra-base hits among his 22 knocks on the season. Right fielder Andrew Eyster hits behind Braswell and is batting .408 with a little more pop — four doubles and three home runs.

As a team, South Carolina is hitting .282, but has two players with eight or more starts who are hitting under .200.

Right-hander Will Sanders is the Friday starter and pitching well with a 2-0 record, 2.37 ERA, and 22 strikeouts in his 19 innings. After Sanders, there’s much less clarity in who the Gamecocks will start in the other two games. Appalachian State transfer Noah Hall, a right-hander who had three saves last year with the Mountaineers, started last Saturday against Clemson, lasting 3.1 innings and allowing three earned runs on three hits. Left-hander John Gilreath, a super senior who pitched exclusively out of the bullpen last season, started on Sunday, pitching three scoreless innings against the Tigers, striking out three and allowing two hits. South Carolina is in better shape on the back end — freshman closer Michael Braswell has two saves in four appearances and has yet to allow a run.

Texas is trying to bounce back mentally from Wednesday’s hard-fought 6-4 loss to Texas State in Austin and the loss of Sunday starter Tanner Witt to season-ending Tommy John surgery, along with the loss of right fielder Austin Todd to a separated shoulder.

Dylan Campbell replaced Todd on Tuesday and Wednesday in right field, but he’s still off to a slow start this season, hitting .179 in 28 at bats with zero extra-base hits. It’s not clear who the next outfielder is in the rotation — it could be Cam Constantine, who has one at bat this season, or Ace Whitehead, who has only appeared as a pitcher and a pinch runner so far.

The most likely Sunday starter is left-hander Lucas Gordon, who filled in for Witt last Sunday against UCLA when Witt was scratched. Gordon pitched four innings against the Bruins, allowing one run on three hits with one strikeout. In Gordon’s other start this season, against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, he went five innings, allowing four runs, none of them earned, and struck out four batters.

The other option, right-hander Andre Duplantier, pitched 4.1 innings against Texas State on Tuesday, so he’ll likely remain in his current role as a midweek starter and weekend reliever.

Saturday’s game will air on SEC Network, with the Sunday doubleheader streamed on SEC SEC Network+.