The South Carolina Gamecocks baseball team will begin its road to Omaha on Friday afternoon against the Liberty Flames to kick off the 2019 season.
The Gamecocks are coming off a 37-26 record in head coach Mark Kingston’s first season. In addition, the team went on an NCAA Tournament run that included advancing to the Super Regionals before losing two games to one to the eventual College World Series runner-ups, the Arkansas Razorbacks.
One of the challenges South Carolina faces is the loss of ten players to the 2018 MLB Draft, including former infielder LT Tolbert and former pitcher Cody Morris.
“From a personnel standpoint, it feels like we’re starting back at square one for sure,” Kingston said. “Because we’ve got to figure out a lot of different positions and what’s the best combinations of lineups.”
However, Kingston does believe the team is a step ahead based on last season’s experience.
“In terms of having been now through the SEC, having seen what our crowds are like, having seen what the media’s like, all those things, it does feel like it’s year two and you kind of have a better feel for what is expected and how to handle things," Kingston said.
Players returning this season for the Gamecocks include senior outfielder TJ Hopkins, who posted a .345 batting average last season, and senior Jacob Olsen, who accounted for 36 RBIs and a .985 fielding percentage.
The Flames also had a fairly successful 2018 season, as they finished with a 32-26 record. However, they were unable to qualify for the NCAA Tournament after losing the Big South Conference Tournament championship game against the Campbell Camels.
Returning for the Flames is senior infielder Tyler Galazin who posted a .286 batting average and sophomore outfielder Brandon Rohrer who finished the season with a .978 fielding percentage.
The Gamecocks and Flames have not met since the 2017 season when South Carolina defeated Liberty 10-7 at Founders Park.
South Carolina and Liberty will begin their seasons at 4 p.m. on Friday at Founders Park and can be seen on SEC Network+.