Coastal Carolina’s baseball program suffered three defeats at the hands of South Carolina in 2010.
First, there was a 4-3 loss in the opening game of the NCAA Myrtle Beach Super Regional. That was followed by an even more painful 10-9 loss in the second and final game of the series, which was clinched on Christian Walker’s eighth-inning, three-run home run that erased Coastal’s two-run lead.
However, perhaps the biggest loss, at least in the long term, came a few weeks later.
St. James outfielder Tanner English, who plays his high school ball less than 20 miles from Coastal’s campus, had been committed to the Chanticleers for months, but he rescinded that pledge and picked the Gamecocks shortly thereafter, robbing Coastal of its center fielder of the future.
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“I found some stuff out,” said English, who signed with USC last November. “ After all the factors that came into play, I just didn’t feel comfortable signing there. I decommitted, explored all my options after that and South Carolina was the way to go.
“That’s all I think about now. I’m ready to see myself in the garnet and black. I can’t wait.”
USC may have found its center fielder of the future in the process. English had committed to Coastal before his junior season began, so USC didn’t even have the opportunity to extend an offer before he chose the Chanticleers. However, a USC offer was quickly extended after his decommitment, and it didn’t take him long to settle on the Gamecocks.
English’s game is built around his electric speed. He has been timed as fast as 6.7 in the 60-yard dash, elite numbers for any high school athlete.
“He’s got all the tools, a lot of them you can’t teach,” St. James coach Robbie Centracchio said. “He’s one of the fastest players in the Southeast. They had him at 6.7 going from home to second in the I.P. Classic. He can throw 90-something miles per hour from the outfield. He’s got amazing bat speed. He’s an excellent baserunner.
“He’s got the baseball pedigree, so he knows how to play the game. But, more importantly, he’s got the tools that are going to help him fit in at Carolina.”
There was certainly plenty of excitement around Coastal’s program for what English was going to bring to the table. Coach Gary Gilmore has built his program with blue-collar players that boast plenty of speed. That’s why it was such a big deal for Coastal to lose one of their signature commitments to USC.
English hit .345 with six home runs and 36 RBIs last season. He also stole 15 bases in 15 attempts and did not commit an error in 33 chances from the outfield.
“Offensively, I’m not a guy who is going to go out there and hit home runs,” English said. “I’m more of a line-drive hitter, a gap-to-gap hitter. I’m just trying to put the ball in play and let my speed come into play. I want to move around on the bases and get into the pitcher’s head a little bit.
“Defensively, I’m going to go after it every second. I’m going to get dirty and make plays. Throwing people out and making big plays is the best part about playing outfield.”
That’s a position he’s likely to man with the Gamecocks. The USC coaching staff has told him that he could see some early playing time in center field next year if Jackie Bradley Jr. leaves school early.
“USC has a really solid lineup everywhere you look defensively,” English said. “I believe I can go in there, help out in the outfield and fit right in. Same thing at the plate. I think I can help out there, too, and have a lot to offer.”