The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina baseball transfers provide balance, new identity to lineup

<p>FILE — Junior first baseman Gavin Casas takes a strike against UMass Lowell at Founders Park on Feb. 18, 2023. Casas put up 1 of the Gamecocks' 17 points this game against the River Hawks' 1 point.&nbsp;</p>
FILE — Junior first baseman Gavin Casas takes a strike against UMass Lowell at Founders Park on Feb. 18, 2023. Casas put up 1 of the Gamecocks' 17 points this game against the River Hawks' 1 point. 

The South Carolina baseball team added 10 players to its roster through the transfer portal during the offseason, many of whom are seeing consistent playing time and success.

After a disheartening 2022 season for South Carolina, going 27-28 (13-17 SEC), head coach Mark Kingston looked to reshape the identity of the Gamecocks through the portal. He went in looking to balance the team in many aspects of the game, including the use of left-handed and right-handed hitters as well as speed and power. 

“You want to be able to play options and matchups when you have the need to do that,” Kingston said.

The impact of these new additions is apparent on the field. Through 18 games played this season, South Carolina is 17-1 overall, whereas last season, it was 10-8.

One of the transfer players is junior first baseman Gavin Casas, who previously played for Vanderbilt University. Casas played 32 games for the Commodores over the course of two season and hit for a .294 batting average in 22 games. Casas leads the Gamecocks with 10 home runs and is hitting for a .322 average with a .468 on-base percentage.

“Gavin has been tremendous for us,” associate head coach Monte Lee said. “The one thing that stands out, obviously, is the power, but he has also has shown great plate discipline and the ability to lay off pitches.”

Fifth-year infielder Will McGillis has also been a productive newcomer at the plate for the Gamecocks. McGillis spent last season at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he hit .265 with 16 home runs in 66 games played. This season, McGillis is hitting .246 with seven home runs in 18 games played, putting him on track to hit roughly 21 home runs through a full 55-game regular season.

“A lot of these guys that have come in out of the portal have done a great job of not only working hard, but also having the winning makeup and the winning mindsets that we’re looking for,” Lee said.

South Carolina's latest crop of transfers is also led by junior outfielder Caleb Denny, who has started each game for the Gamecocks this season. His seven stolen bases trail only senior infielder Braylen Wimmer, who has 12. Denny bats left handed and has hit for a .260 batting average and is tied for most RBI's on the team with 24.

“(Denny) doesn’t talk a whole lot," Lee said. "He punches the clock every day and gives you consistent at bats and consistent work. I love his demeanor."

While many transfer hitters are making contributions to the lineup on a daily basis, transfer pitchers appear less frequently. Fifth-year pitcher Nick Proctor, junior pitcher Zach Zedalis and sophomore pitcher Dylan Eskew have pitched a combined 9.1 innings, with Proctor pitching 6.1 of them. In his 6.1 innings of work, Proctor has given up four earned runs and struck out eight batters.

Despite their lack of playing time, both players are pitching well with Eskew and Zedalis only giving up one run between their combined three innings of work. 

Three of the transfer players added in the offseasonwere from in-state rival Clemson — senior outfielder Dylan Brewer, junior pitcher Ricky Williams and senior catcher Johnathan French. While Brewer and French have appeared in a number of games this season, Williams will have to wait until next season to play after sustaining an injury in his right elbow that required Tommy John surgery.

Brewer started seven of the 14 games he has played in this year. He is hitting for a .241 average with two home runs, one of which traveled 439 feet at Fluor Field against USC Upstate on March 8.

French has appeared in 11 games and started three, and he is hitting for a .294 average with a .520 on-base percentage.

“Everybody wants to come to work every single day and wear this uniform and treat it the right way,” junior pitcher Will Sanders said. “I never met Dylan Brewer, Ricky Williams (or) Jonathan French before this year, and those are three of the best people I’ve ever met.”

South Carolina will continue its season against the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday March 17 in Athens, Georgia. The game will be available on SECN+.


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