South Carolina baseball: Mark Kingston recaps Gamecocks win over UNC in Charlotte
Halfway through SEC play last season, South Carolina baseball was 6-9, about to embark on an epic run that ended in the NCAA Super Regionals in coach Mark Kingston’s first season.
This year, the Gamecocks are 4-11, tied for last in the conference, and facing a tall order as they welcome No. 7 Texas A&M to Founders Park for a Thursday-to-Saturday series.
Leading the way for the Aggies, the lefty duo of John Doxakis and Asa Lacy is one of the most vaunted starting pitching tandems in the country. The pair both sport ERAs under 2.00, Lacy has allowed the third-fewest hits in the SEC and Doxakis is tied for fourth for fewest walks.
“We saw Georgia to open SEC play and at the time, I figured that’s about as good as you could possibly be in the SEC. (But Texas A&M’s) staff is every bit as good,” South Carolina coach Mark Kingston said. “Two lefties that’ll be first-round picks, most likely. The Saturday guy (Lacy) is probably even a little bit better than the Friday guy (Doxakis). Friday guy is outstanding, Saturday guy will probably be one of the top picks in the draft his draft year ... so we’re going to have our hands full, so we’re going to have to figure out creative ways to score runs.”
For USC fans hoping the offense will roar to life like it did last year with a little help from the team’s trusted pitching machines, however, Kingston was quick to downplay any comparisons to this year’s squad.
“This is an entirely different team. Last year’s team had a ton of seniors in the lineup, and one of the players that wasn’t a senior signed for a million dollars in Carlos Cortes,” Kingston said. “This is an offense that has very little experience. So to me the best thing this team can get is just more at-bats.”
That balance between waiting for the future and winning now has taken its toll this year as the conference losses mount and Carolina’s chances of an NCAA tournament berth become smaller and smaller.
“It’s frustrating because we all want to win every game we play. That’s where the frustration comes from,” Kingston said. “When you start a game and you turn your lineup in, you want to win the game and all that, ‘We’re young, we’re inexperienced,’ that all goes out the window and you want to compete and win that game that day, and when it doesn’t go your way, it is frustrating for everybody.”
In the meantime, Kingston is appreciative of the times it has gone the Gamecocks’ way, such as Tuesday, when USC defeated UNC for the first time in four years and got strong pitching efforts from five hurlers, four of them underclassmen.
“It is encouraging, as you look into the future, to see how many freshmen are getting good experience. Freshmen and also second-year players. Besides Reid Morgan, everyone we’re pitching is a freshman or sophomore coming off being a bullpen guy last year. There’s optimism there, no question,” Kingston said.
Who: South Carolina (22-15, 4-11 SEC) vs. No. 7 Texas A&M (27-11-1, 9-5-1 SEC)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
7 p.m. Friday
4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Founders Park
TV: Streaming online on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN on Thursday and Friday
SEC Network on Saturday
Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia area
Probable starters (Game 1): USC — Jr. RHP Reid Morgan (3-2, 3.47 ERA); A&M — Jr. LHP John Doxakis (4-2, 1.76 ERA)
Probable starters (Game 2): USC — R-Fr. RHP Cam Tringali (2-0, 2.81 ERA); A&M — So. LHP Asa Lacy (6-1, 1.69 ERA)
Probable starters (Game 3): USC — TBA; A&M — TBA