On the positive side for the University of South Carolina's baseball season - and yes, there was a very small, small, small one - the Gamecocks finally won the season series against archrival Clemson, finally beat North Carolina after taking several …
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On the positive side for the University of South Carolina's baseball season - and yes, there was a very small, small, small one - the Gamecocks finally won the season series against archrival Clemson, finally beat North Carolina after taking several thumpings at its hands the last few years and beat then No. 3 North Carolina State.
The rest of the season? USC put the 'ug' in ugly, not so much with a 28-28 overall record but with an 8-22 record in the Southeastern Conference.
It's a good thing Carolina head coach Mark Kingston turned things around in the second half of his first season, getting South Carolina within a win of the College World Series. If that had not happened and was followed up by what just came to an end with an 8-6 loss to Louisiana State on Tuesday in the single-elimination portion of the SEC Tournament, Kingston would probably be out of a job right now.
That's not the way it went though, and the Gamecocks' postseason success in 2018 purchased Kingston a small amount of graciousness from the fan base.
Contrary to what is often stated, Carolina fans don't expect a trip to the College World Series every year. While the back-to-back national titles captured in 2010 and 2011 followed by another appearance in the title series will always be seen as the pinnacle of success for the program, the overwhelming majority of Gamecock Nation understands just how magical that 3-year run was and the things that had to come together for that to happen.
However, a reasonable expectation is to make the NCAA tournament, hosting a regional on many occasions, getting to a super regional on some occasions and advancing to a CWS or two or three.
What took place this year was totally unacceptable in so many ways. While South Carolina was in a position in a few SEC contests to pick up a handful more wins, it just wasn't a very good team.
Let's start with the pitching. In the Gamecocks' 31 SEC contests, counting the loss to Louisiana State, they allowed 229 runs while scoring just 131 runs. That's an average of 7.4 runs per game allowed and a little over four runs scored per game.
That's just not good. Yes, USC lost some arms that it was counting on in a big way this season, and yes, that completely throws the pitching ladder out of whack. There were a few pitchers who were strong all season, but there were more that went through a season's worth of growing pain. Usually though, when pitchers are thrown in the fire time and again, there is improvement made. That didn't appear to happen this season.
As far as swinging the bats, Carolina was good at hitting the long ball, especially with no runners on base. That was about the high point of the offense though. The Gamecocks didn't hit for average very well, struck out too much and struggled hitting in the clutch.
The defense wasn't particularly strong either, and when you combine that with poor pitching it can make for a long season.
It will be interesting to see how Kingston and his staff handle replenishing the roster. They have to hope those injured arms heal properly and the returning pitchers who struggled this season will put in the offseason work and make marked improvement.
That, however, may be much easier said than done. Still, a great deal of improvement needs to be made. A return to the NCAA tournament will be expected by the fans, and honestly, by Kingston and his staff as well.
If that doesn't happen next season, it will get very, very hot for Kingston.
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