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South Carolina Baseball Pre-Season Awards

By Sinderella


If there is one thing I love, it is making predictions before a season starts and looking back at the end of the season at how close I came. I have done that with most of the articles I have written during my time here at College Baseball Central, and there are even more coming following this one.


Instead of predicting what the starting lineup and rotation will be as we inch closer to Opening Day, I will be doling out some pre-season awards to the players of the South Carolina Gamecocks. As the season goes on, mid-season awards are even planned, and of course, end-of-season awards. Let's go ahead and hop right into it!


Best Position Player:

You can go for a number of players in this spot, as South Carolina has a deep makeup of position players, such as Cole Messina, Blake Jackson, Gavin Casas, Ethan Petry, just to name a few. I think you have to define best position player as the player you think will be the best with both a bat and a glove.


Who on the team is the best overall position player? I believe this comes down to two players, and there is no shock in who they are. They are the only two All-Americans on the team, Messina and Petry. Messina is the better defensive player at the moment, while being fantastic with the the bat. Petry is the better offensive player, but he did a nice job in right field, the first time ever playing the position in his life. Overall, I think it is hard to not give this to Petry. What he did last year was the greatest freshman season and one of the greatest overall seasons we have ever seen at South Carolina.

Winner: Ethan Petry




Best Starting Pitcher:

This one is going to be a bit harder to predict, as there are a lot of unknowns in the South Carolina starting rotation even a week before the season starts. Last year, we knew for months that it was Will Sanders, Noah Hall, and Jack Mahoney, in that order. This year, we have five guys fighting for three spots, and I believe there is only one guy you can 100% put his name in as a weekend starter, Eli Jones.


Now, that doesn't mean he will be the best. South Carolina still has Roman Kimball, Matthew Becker, Dylan Eskew, and Tyler Pitzer competing to be in the starting rotation, and they all have a chance to win this award. Overall, I believe I need to play it safe with this pick and initially give it to the guy I believe is a lock for the starting rotation as the Friday night guy.

Winner: Eli Jones



Best Relief Pitcher:

This is one of my more confident and easiest picks. There are many talented pitchers who will help out of the bullpen, so shoutout to Ty Good, Jevarra Martin, Michael Polk, Garrett Gainey, and Austin Williamson, among others. I have a lot of belief those players will do a great job this year out of the bullpen, but there is obviously one who stands above all when we talk about the bullpen.

Winner: Chris Veach



Most Surprising Player:

Every year, there is a player who surprises everyone, when they were considered to not get a lot of work; but they go out, play well, and get a lot more playing time than expected.


Last year, that guy was Chris Veach. He wasn't expected to be a big-time bullpen guy, but he took advantage of every chance he got and became the most trusted bullpen pitcher on the staff. The player I am going with this year is someone who many people have not heard of; and to be honest, he has popped up out of nowhere over the past few weeks. Parker Marlatt is a guy a lot of people had pegged for a redshirt, but he is not only being talked about as having an increased role with the bullpen staff, he could start some midweek games as well.

Winner: Parker Marlatt



Clutch Player:

Last year, this award went to Braylen Wimmer. No matter the situation, it always felt like Wimmer would come up big in moments the team needed him to do something special, either with his bat or his glove. Wimmer getting drafted creates a void for that role this season. There are a lot of players for whom you can make a case as that guy for this team, but I have narrowed it down to a few: Messina, Petry, Veach, and Parker Noland. All of these players have some sort of prior clutch plays on their resume, but the one I think is going to emerge this year is Messina. We saw him perform a huge clutch play versus Clemson last year, and I believe we will see a lot more of that this year.

Winner: Cole Messina



Comeback Player:

There are not many players that qualify for this award, as it pertains to a player coming back from injury, but the nominees are Ricky Williams, Michael Polk, and Roman Kimball. All of them will be healthy before conference play begins March 15. There shouldn't be any surprise who I am choosing to win this award, it's Kimball. Roman is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and his stuff has looked really good so far. He is still rusty, and I wouldn't put too much stock in his early season performances in non-conference play. Pitchers have to get back, not only physically but mentally as well. The mental part takes time to get comfortable in a real game environment. I do believe that when the SEC schedule comes around, we will see a very good Roman Kimball.

Winner: Roman Kimball



Most Improved Returner:

There are obviously a lot of players available to win this award, but there is one guy I believe will have the biggest jump in play from last season to this season, Will Tippett. Tippett became a starter late in the 2023 season due to a massive amount of injuries on the team. Some might question if he was fully ready to be in, but when your number gets called, you must answer.


Tippett went out and played a slew of different positions as a true freshman, pressed into duty at SS, 2B, and even CF, all because of injury. It almost seemed like he was going on a day-by-day schedule of where he would play in the next game. This year, it is different. He is the starting SS and has had a full off-season to get stronger and better. Tippett was one of the best players in fall drills and has been one of the best in the spring as well. Tippett is finding himself to be a fan favorite, as there is a group on X who are calling themselves the Tippett Tribe. I am expecting Will Tippett to have a big Sophomore season.

Winner: Will Tippett



Best Transfer:

South Carolina brought in a bevy of high-end transfers to make up for the departure of most of their top players from last year. These players include Parker Noland, Tyler Causey, Kennedy Jones, Blake Jackson, Drake Quinn, and Michael Polk, to name a few. And, almost all of the transfers brought in will have a role to play during the season.


Many of the pitchers will be key contributors out of the bullpen, while a good amount will also be everyday starters out in the field. My pick for the best transfer is someone not many talked about when he came into the program, but I have been extremely high on him. Causey is my pick for the best transfer. He is a corner infielder who came from North Carolina. If there is one thing about UNC, they always have proficient hitters, and that is exactly what Causey does well. He is a big lefty power bat who has been one of the best hitters during the off-season. With Gavin Casas struggling offensively and having a thumb injury, there is a real belief that Causey could even be starting at first base on Opening Day. If he isn't, then I expect him to be the number one designated hitter and look for big things from him this year.

Winner: Tyler Causey



Best Freshman:

With a team like the one South Carolina has this season, there is not a lot of opportunity for freshmen to make a name for themselves on the field. There are a few though, and they are Eddie Cooper, Tyler Pitzer, Jevarra Martin, Lee Ellis, and Ryan Bakes, all five with a chance to contribute this season.


I believe the one that will separate themselves from the rest is Bakes. I personally call him Ryan Rakes, and that name should tell you everything. He is a catcher who was ranked as the #176 player in the country, and he mashes the baseball. Head Coach Mark Kingston said that Bakes was one of the best hitters on the team during the fall period. That is high praise when the lineup rivals some of the best in the country. I expect Ryan to get some DH work this season, and if he continues to hit, he may contend to be the everyday DH going forward.

Winner: Ryan Bakes



MVP:

There isn't much to say here I have not already said about Ethan Petry and that you do not already know, so I will keep this short and sweet. Petry is one of the best players in the country and is the preseason MVP.

Winner: Ethan Petry



Those are all my winners for the 2024 pre-season awards. We are only a few days away from Opening Day, and I cannot be more excited! I will be back with my mid-season awards in a few weeks. Be sure to stay tuned in, as I will have South Carolina coverage every week here at College Baseball Central.


All pictures courtesy of @GamecockBll @d1baseball @GamecockCentral @cbssports on X


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