COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The road hasn't been an easy one for Madison Stokes at South Carolina.
The former A.C. Flora standout batted injuries during his sophomore and junior seasons that kept him in the dugout and unable to actively contribute to the Gamecocks' success. That's all changed this year. Stokes has been instrumental in helping USC win 28 games so far this season.
"I think a lot of guys are having much better years than they've had in the past and Madison is right up there," said Gamecocks head coach Mark Kingston. "You start [asking] why did that happen. It started because he's worked extremely hard. He's been coachable. He's tried to get stronger. He's tried to work on his swing a bunch. He has a good approach. You get better. You make those kinds of strides because you've worked really hard at it."
Stokes played in 78 of 124 games for Carolina in the last two seasons. During his sophomore year, Stokes suffered a Jones' fracture in his foot that kept him out of action for half of USC's season. A year later, the former Falcon suffered a broken wrist that sidelined him in the final stretch of his junior campaign. This year, Stokes dealt with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss 13 games.
However, Stokes' impact on the team this year is unquestioned. He's batting .346 this season with eight home runs with 32 RBIs. For him, it's been a matter of doing the little things to stay in the lineup to help his team.
"It's just the small things that's helped me," Stokes said, "not just working out harder or hitting more. I think it's the smaller things off the field: taking care of my school work, what I'm eating, what I'm drinking every single day, the time I go to sleep, the time I wake up. It's just the smaller things off the field that's going to help me have a healthy season and a consistent season and I think those things have been the most beneficial for me."
Stokes and the Gamecocks look to continue their strong play against SEC opponents this weekend when they welcome Mizzou to Founders Park for Senior Weekend. USC will honor Stokes and four other seniors on the roster (Justin Row, Jonah Bride, Matt Williams, Hunter Taylor) on Saturday, but Stokes isn't quite ready to reflect on his career at Carolina.
"I think it's pretty selfish if I look ahead and get emotion for Saturday or Friday or this last home series," Stokes said. "We're here to win. We're here to compete against Missouri and take care of business. Once it's over, then I can probably sit in my bed and just think about the career I've had here at Carolina, but I just want to take it day by day."
South Carolina's final home series against will start at 7 p.m. Friday at Founders Park.