COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Let's play ball!
Those three words were Mark Kingston's opening statement one day prior to the Gamecocks opening regular season play with a home series against VMI.
"I think everybody's ready for that – players, coaches, fans, alumni," Kingston said. "Everybody's ready to play ball. So, we're ready to do that."
Kingston was hired last June to replace Chad Holbrook as the new skipper for the Gamecocks. Since arriving in Columbia, he's embraced the challenge of getting USC back to Omaha in their quest of winning a third national title. Still, starting the journey gives Kingston a butterfly or two in stomach.
"I don't know if nerves are the right words, but the anticipation is pretty great right now, I think, for myself, for our coaching staff, for our players, we're ready to go," Kingston admitted. "However you want to define that, we're just very anxious and ready to go."
The Gamecocks will open the year with Adam Hill on the mound. The junior right-handed pitcher posted a 3.04 earned run average in 14 starts just a year ago. Now, he'll look to lead the Carolina pitching staff to their first win of the season.
"It's always been a dream of mine to pitch on Friday nights at South Carolina," Hill said. "It's a huge honor. I'm just excited about getting in front of our great fans and going out there and competing. We've all been working extremely hard over the winter and spring. We're ready to put a good product on the field. We're all just really excited to show our fans how far we've come."
The Gamecocks only have five seniors on the team this year, but they'll rely heavily on the leadership of Madison Stokes. The former A.C. Flora star batted .224 last year and started in 47 games for Carolina. This year, Stokes believes the Gamecocks will be very productive at the plate.
"In the fall and in the spring, the coaches have prepared us in a way to have great at-bats," Stokes said. "He's given us philosophies we've never heard before and we've put those philosophies to the test and it works so we're going to run with it and just trust everything that our coaches are telling us to do. I think, ultimately if we have confidence in them, we're going to have a great year offensively."
South Carolina hosts VMI at 4 p.m. Friday.