The South Carolina Gamecocks are among the final 16 teams playing collegiate baseball this week, but you would not know it given the demeanor of their team and staff.
The loose nature of their club, trickling from Head Coach Mark Kingston all the way down to the players has given them a look of a team that has done everything they can to normalize the process.
The Gamecocks find themselves in this position largely due to the work of Danny Blair, who came out of nowhere in a pinch-hit rule to stoke the Carolina offense to a win in the NCAA Tournament opener against Ohio State.
By the end of the weekend, Blair won the Regional’s Most Valuable Player award, and also earned the right to stay in the USC lineup as long as his production continues.
Blair spoke Wednesday about his whirlwind weekend:
The upperclassmen on South Carolina’s roster, however have to deal with an additional distraction, the continuation of the MLB Draft. Several of the Gamecocks have had their names called early this week for chances to play in the big leagues, including senior Madison Stokes in the 10th Round by the Phillies.
Stokes, a Columbia native, was not selected last year, his first draft-eligible season, but he’s fine compartmentalizing his professional aspirations and focusing on finishing his time with the Gamecocks:
The two pitchers who will likely start for South Carolina this weekend, Adam Hill (4th Round, Mets) and Cody Morris (7th Round, Indians) also were selected by Major League teams this week.
Morris has gone through a redemption year, after sitting out his first season in Columbia after undergoing Tommy John Surgery and limited to just 10 starts last year. The redshirt-sophomore leads South Carolina’s starting pitchers with a 3.68 ERA along with 83 strikeouts in 78 and 1/3 innings pitched.
He also believes that South Carolina has unfinished business and is putting his professional baseball aspirations to the side, for now:
Kingston said Wednesday the starting rotation would more than likely line up the same way as it did last weekend, with freshman Carmen Mlodzinski lining up to pitch a decisive third game, if necessary. He also said TJ Hopkins will continue to fill a reserve role as his back continues to be a barrier to his return to full-time action.
For Mark Kingston’s Wednesday comments, click below: