2021 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 18 South Carolina
Last season: 12-4
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Mark Kingston (77-58, three years)
The good news: The Gamecocks have done a good job of stockpiling talent over the last couple years and now enter 2021 with a chance to make some noise. That’s especially true on the mound, where South Carolina has plenty of powerful arms—13 of its pitchers this fall averaged at least 91 mph with their fastball. In part due to the shortened 2020 draft, the Gamecocks get back powerful righthanders Thomas Farr and Brannon Jordan in the rotation. Righthander Brett Kerry, who has been effective in a variety of roles over the last two seasons, is back as well and will pitch important innings this spring. The Gamecocks also get back the bulk of their offense and have the pieces to put together a deep lineup. Brady Allen, Wes Clarke and Andrew Eyster give South Carolina a strong core to build around. Allen led the team in hitting last year, while Clarke and Eyster provide the power. The Gamecocks will also benefit from a full season from third baseman Brennan Milone, who was their top 2019 recruit but was limited to just five games in 2020 due to injury. If he and Brandon Fields, their top 2020 recruit, can this spring hit the ground running, it would give the lineup some more length and dynamism.
The bad news: As much talent as the Gamecocks have, they have a fairly inexperienced roster. Three-quarters of their pitchers have never appeared in an SEC game and the same is true of about half their position players. Though few are true freshmen, they still need to prove they can withstand the pressure of conference play. South Carolina is also replacing ace Carmen Mlodzinski. Farr and Jordan have the pedigree and stuff to do so, but they are among the group yet to make their SEC debuts. The Gamecocks have more options behind them, including Kerry, and the staff is excited about the development of third-year freshman lefthander Julian Bosnic, who missed 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and is now touching 95 mph, as well as true freshmen Magdiel Cotto, Jack Mahoney, Jackson Phipps and Will Sanders.
Player to know: Wes Clarke, 1B/C.
Clarke is one of the most prodigious power hitters in the SEC. He hit eight home runs in 2020—only Nick Gonzales (12) and Justin Dirden (9) hit more. The third-year sophomore has a big 6-foot-2, 224-pound frame and a strong righthanded swing. He’s still learning first base after mostly catching in high school, and he’ll likely play both positions some this spring.
Path to Omaha: South Carolina has the upside to advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2012. Their deep pitching staff and powerful lineup will provide some real highs in 2021. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains along the way due to their inexperience. If the Gamecocks have refined some of their rough edges by the time June arrives, they will make for a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.
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|C||Colin Burgess, R-Fr.||.308||.357||.423||26||0||2|
|1B||Wes Clarke, R-So.||.286||.406||.714||56||8||22|
|2B||Jeff Heinrich, R-Jr.||.250||.306||.375||56||1||14|
|3B||Brennan Milone, R-Fr.||.154||.389||.462||13||1||2|
|SS||George Callil, R-Sr.||.271||.446||.354||48||1||10|
|LF||Joe Satterfield, R-SR.||Transfer -- Elon|
|CF||Brady Allen, R-So.||.327||.459||.571||49||3||8|
|RF||Andrew Eyster, R-Jr.||.305||.400||.593||59||4||12|
|DH||Brandon Fields, Fr.||HS -- Orlando|
|RHP||Thomas Farr, R-So.||3||0||1.72||16||14||0|
|RHP||Brannon Jordan, R-Jr.||2||0||1.71||21||32||0|
|LHP||Julian Bosnic, R-Fr.||2||0||0.00||7||7||0|
|RP||Brett Kerry, R-So.||2||0||3.60||15||18||1|
|RP||Brett Thomas, R-Fr.||0||0||0.00||4||5||0|