COLUMBIA - First-year South Carolina coach Mark Kingston is glad he's finally seeing the club he imagined last fall thriving on the field this spring.
The Gamecocks, who three weeks ago appeared sluggish and likely to miss the postseason, have …
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The Gamecocks, who three weeks ago appeared sluggish and likely to miss the postseason, have rallied the past few weeks to become one of the hottest teams in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina has won its past three SEC series, something it had not done since winning the final two regular-season league series in 2014 and the opening one of the following year.
Despite a 9-0 loss to College of Charleston on Tuesday, it's a surge that has the Gamecocks (28-20) dreaming of bigger things.
"Hopefully, we can continue to turn it up and continue to shock the nation like we're doing," South Carolina first baseman Madison Stokes said.
The Gamecocks entered the season hoping for a quick adjustment to Kingston, the former South Florida coach who became just the third South Carolina baseball coach since 1996. Instead, the team's lack of offense and inconsistency on the mound continued into the first half of the season.
The low point came in April when South Carolina followed up losing two of three to Arkansas (it was South Carolina's fourth SEC series loss out of five it played until then) with a midweek, 7-4 loss against in-state opponent Presbyterian, which is 13-35 and has lost nine straight since beating the Gamecocks.
Stokes, a senior, said the upperclassmen were not going to let the season fall apart and urged their younger teammates to keep working hard and believing in a turnaround. It did not take long as the Gamecocks responded with a three-game sweep of powerhouse LSU, something it had not accomplished since 2006.
Series wins over Vanderbilt and top-10 opponent Ole Miss came the past two weekends and, with two weeks of the regular season left, the Gamecocks are bidding to overtake Georgia for second place in the SEC Eastern Division.
Kingston said the resurgence of the team comes from a return to fundamentals. He believes the team's offense was affected by a couple of road trips in March away from its indoor batting cages and pitching machines. When the team played at home as it did against LSU and Ole Miss, the work routine returned and the offense took off. The Gamecocks scored 88 runs over a nine-game stretch after averaging four runs a game until then.
The pitching staff has been bolstered by freshman right-hander Logan Chapman, who was moved into the Friday night spot last month and pitched well in wins over LSU and Ole Miss.
Chapman will take the mound this Friday, too, when South Carolina opens a three-game series against Missouri, 30-18 overall yet in last in the SEC East.
"We want to keep this going," Gamecocks third baseman Jonah Bride said.
Kingston knew his team was capable of improved production, even if there were plenty of times during the first two months the bats were silent.
"You always want to be optimistic," he said Thursday. "We're not a perfect team. We've had some things to figure out and adjust to this season. But as a coach, I don't think you ever throw in the towel. We won't ever do that. Regardless of what you are, you keep fighting and looking for answers."
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