In years past, we've seen Mike Bianco treat Hoover more like a staging area than a battleground; his pitching decisions have often been geared more towards positioning his rotation for the Big Dance than making a deep run in the SEC Tourney. Which is why I appreciate his balls-to-wall approach this week.
Hours after Brady Bramlett faced Georgia on four days rest, Bianco announced that David Parkinson will start on an equally accelerated timetable Wednesday against South Carolina.
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Hell, the gamble worked with Bramlett. The Friday night ace shook off an ugly first frame to give the Rebs four innings of one-hit ball in a 5-1 win over UGA. The only drawback to Bramlett's start—and presumably Parkinson's—is that he was on a pitch count of 60. But Bianco is just asking his starters to get deep enough to hand the ball to his loaded bullpen, which hasn't surrendered a lead after the sixth inning all season. Brady Feigl is probably on the shelf after throwing 3.0 innings on Tuesday, but Will Stokes (1.0 innings on Tuesday) and Wyatt Short (1.0 innings on Tuesday) should be available to step in behind Parkinson against South Carolina.
When we heard Bramlett was going on Tuesday, the reaction was ah, Bianco just doesn't want to go one-and-done. But also throwing Parkinson on short rest illustrates Bianco's commitment to making a run in Hoover. That's not without reason. Any other season, 40 wins and an 18-12 conference record would guarantee a hosting spot, but with seven SEC teams boasting that same feat, its an unprecedentedly crowded race. The committee has never picked that many hosts from the same conference, which means they might cap it at six and leave Ole Miss, LSU and Vandy competing for the two final spots.
Bianco's trying to leave as little up to the committee as possible, and I think its the right call.
It's not like he has much in the way of options, by the way. Chad Smith pitched Saturday against A&M, so he's a no-go on Wednesday (though it'll be fascinating to see if Bianco uses him on four days rest on Thursday). Freshman James McArthur was terrible during his recent escapade into the weekend rotation, posting a 10.00 ERA through three SEC starts. The only other option would be freshman reliever Andy Pagnozzi, who has just two career starts, both in midweek towards the beginning of the season. And he might be needed to eat up innings on Wednesday if Parkinson gets into early trouble.
South Carolina, by the way, is throwing ace Clarke Schmidt on five days rest. Schmidt, an All-SEC second-teamer with a 9-2 record and a 2.72 ERA, allowed just one run over 6.2 innings against the Rebs during the first game of an eventual three-game sweep. Parkinson, 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA, hadn't yet cracked the starting rotation for that series but pitched 4.1 relief innings that same night, allowing one run.
How to watch
First pitch: 1 p.m. CT
TV: SEC Network