In what has been dubbed a “do-or-die” season for fifth-year head coach Mark Kingston, the University of South Carolina baseball team is getting it done … and then some.
Gamecock baseball has raced out to a 12-1 record and the No. 20 ranking in the nation, according to the latest poll from D1 Baseball. Kingston’s team captured a key series win last weekend over arch-rival Clemson – and has been tearing the cover off the baseball as it approaches the start of Southeastern Conference (SEC) play.
Through Tuesday’s games, South Carolina is hitting .307 as a team with 133 runs scored. For those of you doing the math at home, the Gamecocks are averaging more than ten runs per game.
So much for offense being the supposed weak link on this squad …
As expected, senior Braylen Wimmer is pacing the offensive explosion – scoring a team-high 23 runs though thirteen games while hitting .422. Believe it or not, Wimmer’s astronomical average isn’t even the best on the team. That distinction belongs to freshman two-way player Ethan Petry, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound freshman from Land O’Lakes, Florida who is hitting .462 on the young campaign with six home runs and 17 runs batted in (RBIs).
Driving in even more runs than Petry? Sophomore catcher Cole Messina of Summerville, S.C. (20) and transfers Caleb Denny (20) and Gavin Casas (18).
South Carolina’s hot start is not only good news for Kingston, it is good news for Gamecock athletics director Ray Tanner – who has presided over the decline of the program he built into a perennial national championship contender over a decade ago.
South Carolina captured back-to-back national titles in 2010 and 2011 and reached the finals of the College World Series (CWS) the following year, ultimately falling to Arizona. During Tanner’s sixteen seasons at the helm, his teams posted a spectacular 738- 313 (.700) mark – qualifying for postseason play fourteen times and never once posting a losing record.
Since then, the struggle has been real.
Tanner’s hand-picked successor, Chad Holbrook, just couldn’t keep momentum going. Holbrook went 199-105 (.559) in his five seasons at South Carolina. His teams never reached the CWS and failed to qualify for the postseason in 2015 and 2017.
After Holbrook maneuvered his way out of town under Tanner’s not-so-watchful eye, Kingston was hired to rebuild the program. Through his first five seasons, though, the backsliding continued. Kingston posted a 138-109 (.559) mark – including a 54-66 (.450) record against conference opponents – through his first five seasons (including the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign).
That reminds me … while Kingston is certainly riding a huge wave of momentum to start the 2023 campaign, the road ahead is incredibly arduous.
South Carolina has upcoming three-game series against No. 1 LSU (April 6-8), No. 3 Tennessee (May 18-20), No. 6 Florida (April 20-22), No. 7 Vanderbilt (April 14-16) and No. 8 Arkansas (May 12-14). They also play No. 14 North Carolina on April 4 in Charlotte, N.C.
It doesn’t get much tougher than that …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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How is Monty Lee not even mentioned here? It seems obvious to me that his addition has played a role in their “getting it done”.