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South Carolina Pitching Staff Proving Doubters Wrong

By Sinderella

Coming into the 2024 season, the South Carolina Gamecocks pitching staff was questioned whether they would have enough quality arms to compete for postseason success. Many of the people that did believe had them in their Omaha projections, many of the ones that did not believe, did not have them in their Omaha projections.

After losing the entire starting rotation and two key bullpen pieces to the MLB draft, obviously questions would arise about how a team could replace all that talent, experience, and production. That's when Mark Kingston and new pitching coach Matt Williams went to work.

They brought in a slew of transfer arms who, on paper, didn't have the stats to make those believe they could get the job done, but they had one or two dominant traits and nasty stuff that they could hone in. They paired them up with a few true freshmen and returning players who still needed some development last season.

I know what you're thinking: this pitching staff has to be struggling. A bunch of ragtag guys who haven't proven themselves, or on paper were still where they were last season, has to be bad....right? So far, through the first 14 games of the year this staff has instead been one of the elite pitching staffs in the country.

Let's get into some numbers that show how we can tell this staff has been so dominant. They are currently the #3 team in the country in ERA, behind only Texas A&M and Duke, two staffs which everyone had ranked near the top of the country during the preseason. South Carolina is #4 in hits allowed per nine innings and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched).

This staff does not give up many hits, free bases, or runs. When you watch them, they will get themselves into trouble now and then, and each time they do, they find their way out of it with little to no damage. Now, obviously, South Carolina hasn't seen the most dangerous hitting teams in the country, but they have done what they are supposed to and shut down those they should.

Even when they went up against Clemson, which has one of the best offenses in the country, they were very impressive and would've looked even better had they played a little better defensively. The most impressive part about the staff is that even when they get behind, they know how to work themselves out of it. Matt Williams has turned around pitching staffs everywhere he has been, and he is doing it again here at South Carolina.

Early in the season, South Carolina has gone with a starting rotation of Eli Jones, Dylan Eskew, and Roman Kimball. Again, a ragtag group of guys who are simply outperforming what many thought they would. Eli Jones is a sophomore, who ended up as the 2023 Friday guy due to injuries that plagued last year's staff. He was very solid, had a handful of starts, and ended with a sub-4.00 ERA. He currently is still the Friday starter, with a 1-0 record and 2.03 ERA. Dylan Eskew, who Mark Kingston called the most improved pitcher over the offseason, went from developing last season to being the Saturday starting pitcher. He's currently sitting with a 1-1 record, and batters are hitting .122 off him.

Roman Kimball transferred in a year ago from Notre Dame but sat out the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He has been used as the Sunday starter in the first few weeks of the season, with a 1-1 record and batters hitting just .152 off him, including his first start as a Gamecock that produced a combined no-hitter, the first one in school history since 2007.

The bullpen's lone returning main piece is Chris Veach, who emerged last season as the closer. So far this year, the staff hasn't been using a traditional closer role, but Veach has come out in the important moments and has shined, again.

The slew of transfers this staff has brought in have been great, with Garrett Gainey (Liberty) and Ty Good (College of Charleston) leading the way. Drake Quinn (Marist) and Tyler Dean (Virginia Tech) have been great as well. The freshmen have been equally outstanding, led by Eddie Copper and Tyler Pitzer.

Copper has been used as the midweek starter, while Pitzer has been used for bullpen work. Freshmen Joey Wittig and Parker Marlatt have been fantastic in their appearances as well. The returning players of Conner McCreery and Matthew Becker have been great when they have gone out on the mound.

Becker was in line to be a weekend starter and then had a minor latt strain from which he had to battle back, but he is now ready to go and has been a midweek starter with Copper. McCreery has seen bullpen work during the midweek and weekends.

The scary part for opponents is that there are some other extremely talented pitchers who are themselves almost ready to come back from injury, transfers Michael Polk (Georgia), Ricky Williams (Clemson), and true freshman Jake McCoy. That trio will come in and give even more nasty stuff to an already elite pitching staff. The South Carolina pitching staff under Matt Williams is off to a hot start and doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon.

Current Pitching Stats as of March 7 (ERA and W-L):

Eli Jones 2.03 1-0

Dylan Eskew 3.29 1-1

Roman Kimball 2.89 1-1

Ty Good 0.00 1-0

Connor McCreery 0.00

Tyler Dean 0.00

Tyler Pitzer 1.08 2-0

 Eddie Copper 1.35 1-0

Garrett Gainey 1.69 0-1

Matthew Becker 2.25 2-0

Drake Quinn 2.25

Joey Wittig 2.25

Parker Marlatt 3.38 1-0

Chris Veach 3.86

(All pictures courtesy of @GamecockBll)


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