COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - With the season months away for Mark Kingston and the South Carolina Gamecocks, the road to Omaha starts in Columbia on Thursday with fall practice.
The team will have fall scrimmages on Friday and Saturday, where fans will get a chance to see the team in action for the first time under the new Gamecocks head baseball coach. It'll give fans and Kingston a chance to really see what the Gamecocks are capable of in a game situation.
"The great thing now that we start scrimmages and games is that we start to see how the pieces fit together," Kingston said, "who can really hit. We've seen who can hit off the machine in BP. Now, it's time to see when there's a pitcher out there trying to get them out. We can see which pitchers can make pitches, get out of jams. We can start to see who can make the great play on defense, who's going to be consistent on defense.
"To this point, I'm very pleased with what I've seen from a talent standpoint. Now's it's a matter of getting them on the field, starting to teach them how we want to do bunt defense, how we do cuts and relays, how we go about preparing for a game offensively, just a lot of great things and I'm really excited."
South Carolina will enter the season with the fifth-best recruiting class, according to Baseball America. However, the Gamecocks wins don't come based on what others think of their signing class. There is work to be done.
"I just think they're very anxious to get better," Kingston said. "That's the one thing I've been very pleased with. I think, collectively and individually, they're anxious to get better. They've asked good questions. When we've asked them to do something, they've gone overboard trying to do it. So, I've been very pleased with their approach and their desire to try to learn and to understand that we all want to take that next step."
That desire to have a better product on the field is shared by the Carolina fan base, who hopes to see the Gamecocks make it back to the College World Series for the first time since 2012.
"The passion for this program is through the roof and I love that," Kingston said. "Go big or go home is the way I look at it. My biggest break in coaching was as an assistant coach when I was able to go to the University of Miami and it was the same mindset. That was a team that won national championships, had one of the proudest traditions, one of the strongest fan bases in the country. So, I was introduced to what that is a long time ago as an assistant. Now, to be a part of a program just like that as the head coach, to me, it's what it's all about."
Baseball scrimmages will take place on Friday at 4 p.m. and on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Both scrimmages are free and open to the public.