South Carolina baseball drillmaster Mark Kingston addressed the media on Wednesday at the end of the Gamecocks’ abatement practices, affecting on a ample ambit of capacity including recruiting, injuries and alums of the affairs acceptable the World Series.
But for abounding USC fans, it’s all about the 2019 adaptation of the Gamecocks — afterwards advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals in his aboriginal division acknowledgment to a second-half surge, Kingston faces a alpine adjustment in replicating that accomplishment for the accessible season. He has to alter seven approved contributors to his lineup, all three of his weekend starters and some key spots in the abode too. A abounding bisected of his abatement agenda was composed of newcomers, either freshmen or inferior academy transfers.
Fall practices didn’t acknowledgment all his questions about this team, Kingston said, but they did alpha to accommodate some clarity. Here are the capital takeaways.
With green Logan Chapman ability Tommy John surgery, South Carolina will accept a complete about-face in its weekend rotation, and appropriate now, aloof about the alone abiding affair to ample one of those spots is green righty Carmen Mlodzinski.
Mlodzinski put calm a appropriate apprentice attack that didn’t consistently appearance up in the stats, starting seven midweek amateur and authoritative 19 appearances en avenue to a 3-5 almanac and 5.52 ERA. His stuff, however, is such that he’s about a lock for the weekend, and about absolutely the Friday night guy. He’s added a cutter to his armory and hit the 91-94 mile per hour ambit in appearances this fall.
“He’s done a absolutely nice job. He’s gotten better. He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s added physical. Because of all that, I anticipate all of his actuality has taken an uptick,” Kingston said.
Beyond that, there’s apparently 10 or so hurlers who could accompany Mlodzinski as starters. The botheration is that none of them has distanced himself from the pack. Several candidates, such as inferior Ridge Chapman and green John Gilreath, additionally absent time this abatement with injuries.
“We don’t accept any added accuracy on how we will use our pitchers,” Kingston said.
Until he does, Kingston won’t shut bottomward the achievability of an anarchistic approach, be it platooning starts or aptitude heavily on his bullpen. The acceptable account there is that Kingston feels added assured in the abyss of his agents again he did aftermost year.
“It’s aloof a amount of acrimonious guys out of those roles and chief who has the best adventitious to accord you a little bit of breadth as a starter, so we’ve got a lot of guys that are in that 89-93 ambit with acceptable ascendancy and a acceptable accessory pitch. It’s aloof a amount of addition out who’s ready, who’s the best mature, who can handle activity through the calendar assorted times. That is still to be determined,” Kingston said.
When asked to name any freshmen who could arise in and comedy appropriate away, Kingston said four names anon came to mind: outfielder Brady Allen, aboriginal baseman/outfielder Josiah Sightler and pitchers Wesley Sweatt and Dylan Harley.
Allen absolutely showcased pop throughout the fall, and Kingston said the apprenticeship agents acquainted he performed the best of the amateur hitters. Sightler, meanwhile, charcoal an arresting aptitude who needs to advance more. He was recruited as a pitcher, but an abrasion his chief year of aerial academy affected him to comedy the field, and he displayed raw ability at the bowl and was still taken in the 12th annular of the MLB draft.
All that potential, however, still needs to be polished, Kingston said.
On the mound, Sweatt was aerial academy teammates with Gilreath in Rock Hill, and Harley is a aloft Winthrop accomplish who led the accompaniment in strikeouts as a senior.
“Pitching wise, I’d say Sweatt and Harley were the two guys that got the best people’s attention, abnormally their teammates. Those guys are activity to accept the adventitious to angle a lot for us this year. Great stuff, complete kids and apperceive how to win,” Kingston said.
On the field, bristles or so positions abide up for grabs, and the champ of one atom could account a alternation acknowledgment at another. The key unknowns at this point arise to be at catcher and the larboard ancillary of the infield.
Behind the plate, chief Chris Cullen was bound hitting this abatement as coaches approved to bottle his health, and afterwards actuality out for the starting job aftermost year by Hunter Taylor, he’ll now accept to authority off a able claiming from JUCO alteration Luke Berryhill, who led the aggregation in home runs and runners bent burglary this fall. He’s got acceleration to boot, and the way Kingston talked about him Wednesday acerb appropriate that he’ll be complex in 2019 in one anatomy or another.
“Chris acutely has the best acquaintance at this level, so he’ll be accustomed every befalling to try to win that job arise the spring, but Berryhill had a actual able fall, abnormally offensively,” Kingston said.
Should Berryhill win the communicable job, Cullen spent some time at aboriginal in 2018 and could potentially accelerate into that slot, area there is additionally some uncertainty.
At ambush and third base, inferior academy transfers Nick Neville and George Callil are able candidates to mix and bout there, but chief Jacob Olson spent lots of time at third afterwards arena appropriate acreage through best of his USC career, and green Mason Streater additionally put calm a able fall.
“Gun to my head,” Kingston said, “I’d say it’s 50-50 at this point” whether Olson plays appropriate acreage or third abject in the spring. That accommodation would acceptable be the aboriginal domino in ambience abundant spots.
Despite all the ambiguity mentioned above, there are some names that South Carolina admirers can calculation on seeing already aperture day rolls around, provided they break healthy.
Neville and Callil are both “players who could advice us” and it seems absurd neither of them will get starting time. Olson, no amount area he ends up, will about absolutely play. Andrew Eyster, a accent outfielder and transfer, additionally is in position to start.
And if he can break healthy, chief outfielder TJ Hopkins will acceptable be a brilliant and baton on and off the field.
“He’s got aristocratic speed, he’s got aristocratic power, we aloof charge to accumulate him on the field,” Kingston said. “And what we did this abatement is got him aloof abundant assignment to break aciculate and abide his progress, but not so abundant that you had to anguish about him tweaking article or accepting a setback. He had a actual able abatement on the field, but he additionally got babble reviews from his teammates, both abiding players and the new guys, with how he is in the locker allowance and how he’s aggravating to be a leader.”
Kingston’s best effusive acclaim Wednesday went to green additional baseman Noah Campbell, who started 42 amateur aftermost division and put calm an outstanding summer in the Cape Cod League, so abundant so that Kingston said he could accept been called MVP of the best summer bookish alliance in the nation.
Kingston additionally said his agents thinks Campbell could hit about .350 while arena consistently in 2019, a mark alone two South Carolina players accept able in the accomplished bristles years.
“I apprehend him to be ambiguous All-American this year, I absolutely do. His aegis has arise a continued way, and I anticipate he’s one of the bigger hitters in America,” Kingston said.
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