Major news out of South Carolina tonight, as two of the nation’s top four freshmen were dismissed from the nation’s No. 2 team. Outfielder/righthander Lonnie Chisenhall, who was hitting .313 out of the three-hole in the Gamecocks’ lineup, and righthander Nick Fuller, who had yet to allow a hit or a run in five innings of work this season over six relief appearances, were permanently dismissed from the club for violating athletic department policy. News reports out of South Carolina say the players face multiple counts of burglary and grand larceny.
“This is a very unfortunate situation,” South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said in a statement. “Both of these young men come from outstanding families and I feel bad for their parents. It is inappropriate for me to make any other comments, as this case is now in the hands of the legal authorities, but they are no longer part of the Gamecock baseball program.”
This is a major blow for a South Carolina club that figured to rely increasingly on both players as the year progressed. In particular, the Gamecocks will miss Chisenhall’s power bat. Fuller has an electric arm, but he is more replaceable now that junior lefthander Arik Hempy is back from Tommy John surgery.
This hurts South Carolina even more over the long term than it does for 2007. The Gamecocks are a deep enough team that they might be able to withstand losing Fuller and Chisenhall this year, but the two freshmen figured to be major pieces of South Carolina’s foundation for the next few years. Without the duo, South Carolina’s No. 2 recruiting class looks far less impressive; it would probably still rank as a top-25 class thanks to impact junior college transfers Jay Brown, Jordan Costner and Travis Jones and freshman righty Blake Cooper, but out of that group only Cooper will be around in 2009. Now it will be even more important for freshman righthander Sam Dyson to return strong next year from his offseason labrum surgery.
Tanner is expected to hold a 12:30 p.m. news conference on Tuesday, so maybe we’ll get more information then.