How USC Baseball will look back on 2018 as bittersweet but move forward with hope for a successful future.
by Kendall Smith, Weddington HS (Matthews, North Carolina)
Moments after a devastating 14-4 game three loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks on Monday, the University Of South Carolina baseball team was overtaken with a bittersweet feeling. So close to the 2018 College World Series, yet so far, and with five senior starters saying goodbye to the program, and 16 players drafted to the Major Leagues, Carolina baseball seemed to be in a world of hurt.
However, not all is wrong in the world of Gamecock baseball. In fact, the program has much to look forward to. Although the Gamecocks suffered the loss of a handful of key players, they will return several players who are poised fill the void.
USC baseball will get back right-handed pitchers and rising sophomores, Logan Chapman and Carmen Mlodzinski, both who played important roles in this seasons success on the mound. Also, the Gamecocks will return utility player, Jacob Olson, who not only contributed defensively, but also offensively, earning a .234 batting average with a .472 slugging percentage. Olson went 2-4 in Carolina’s final game against Arkansas, and served as one of the few bright spots of the evening for the Gamecocks. This standout performance proved Olson to be a player-to-watch heading into the 2019 season.
Aside from returning players, South Carolina will acquire several new recruits who are also well equipped with talent that could enhance the team. One player in particular, Wes Clarke, a 6’3” catcher out of Lynchburg, Virginia, might be taking on an important role, as USC will not be returning a catcher for the 2019 season. Hunter Taylor, the Gamecocks senior starting catcher has completed his eligibility, and rising sophomore catcher out of Weddington, North Carolina, Elijah Bowers declared his transfer on Friday, June 15th.
Not only do the Gamecocks have much to look forward to in terms of players, but also in coaching, as the staff proves to be a major upside for Carolina heading into next season and the future. This year was head coach Mark Kingston’s first season with USC. Within the span of about 10 months, Kingston led the baseball program to a regional title win, and an appearance in NCAA Super Regional. It is assumed that with more time to come, Kingston will be able to continue to push the Gamecocks to new heights, and possibly even a College World Series appearance. When asked about the Super Regional experience, and future goals, Coach Kingston commented saying, “This is where we want to get to every year- to have this opportunity to get to Omaha. Every year that we put the uniform on that will be the goal.”
Following the match this week, a game in which Arkansas advanced to the 2018 College World Series, Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn commented on South Carolina’s talented coaching staff saying: “I’m sure they’ll be sitting where we are sitting down the road.”