Photo: File Photo: Valencia Abraham / The Daily Gamecock

While you were away: Mark Kingston takes helm for USC baseball

Classifying the 2017 South Carolina baseball season as a disappointment may be an understatement, but with the hire of former South Florida head coach Mark Kingston, there's energy around the Gamecock program again.

Kingston was officially introduced as the Gamecocks' head coach on June 30, where he made it clear that the expectations are to win, and win a lot. The former Miami assistant knows what it takes to win a title, helping the 2001 Hurricanes reach glory after receiving the tournament's No. 1 overall seed.

At USF, Kingston spent three years as the head coach, finishing with a 42-19 mark in 2017 that included wins over two top-five teams, including eventual national champion Florida. Kingston's Bulls were among the best in the country with a 3.24 team ERA, and offensively, shortstop Kevin Merrell was drafted No. 33 overall in June's MLB Amateur Draft, the third-highest selection in USF history.

Kingston also spent five years as the head coach at Illinois State, where his Redbirds won at least 30 games each season, highlighted by a 39-win campaign in 2013, setting a program record.

In July, Kingston announced that he would be retaining USC pitching coach Jerry Meyers, assistant coach Stuart Lake and director of baseball operations Tyson Lusk. Kingston brought USF's Mike Current along with him to serve as the team's hitting coach and recruiting coordinator, replacing Sammy Esposito, who is now an assistant at Wichita State. Current helped build USF's first-ever top 10 recruiting class in 2015, which ranked as high as No. 7 in D1Baseball's rankings.

Kingston held onto the majority of USC's 2017 recruiting class, losing one player to the draft and one before he was hired, but seven players turned down professional contracts to join the Gamecocks, and the first-year coach has experienced returning starters such as Jonah Bride, Madison Stokes and Adam Hill to help with the transition.

Eager to get on the field, Kingston and the Gamecocks will have to wait until September to kick off fall practice.

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