The University of South Carolina officially welcomed new baseball coach Mark Kingston into the fold Friday afternoon, as he was introduced to Gamecocks fans and fielded questions.
The 30th head coach in program history comes to Columbia from jump starting South Florida’s program, making the NCAA Tournament twice in three years after a drought of more than a decade. He takes over a program that has missed the tournament twice in three seasons and went through a sometimes turbulent five seasons with Chad Holbrook, Ray Tanner’s successor.
But Kingston didn’t shy from the high standard Tanner’s two national titles sent.
“We will embrace your expectations,” Kingston said, speaking to the fans. “I know what the expectations are. Coach Tanner made sure I know what the expectations are”
South Florida won 42 games this past season, including victories against Florida and Florida State. USF topped the 40-win mark for the first time since 1996. The Bulls had not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2002.
Prior to becoming the head coach at USF, Kingston was the head coach at Illinois State from 2010-14, leading the Redbirds to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 — their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1994.
He has an overall head coaching record of 253-180-1.
The deal Kingston received was for six seasons at $600,000 a year.
The Gamecocks went 34-24 in 2016, narrowly missing a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The team lost its top three arms, a big hitter in Alex Destino and several key relievers, but there are still plenty of pieces available for Kingston’s new team.