South Carolina baseball is facing a lot of uncertainty in 2018: The Gamecocks have a new head coach in Mark Kingston and an inexperienced pitching staff, not to mention a recent pitching coach change after fall practices ended.
And all that uncertainty has left USC in an unusual position heading into its first scrimmages of the year this weekend — unranked.
Baseball America released its preseason top 25 poll on Tuesday, and South Carolina did not make the cut. It’s just the third time in the past 10 years the outlet has not included the Gamecocks in its preseason rankings.
D1Baseball.com also unveiled its preseason poll this past week, and South Carolina wasn’t on that list either, marking the first time since 2009 that the Gamecocks have entered a season unranked in two of the four major polls for collegiate baseball.
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The other two, the coaches poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll, have not yet been released.
The good news for Gamecock fans is that another respected outlet, Collegiate Baseball, pegged USC at No. 19 in its preseason rankings. Also, the pundits for D1Baseball.com don’t think South Carolina will be out of their rankings all year.
In response to a fan question about the poll, one of the writers, Aaron Fitt said, “I’m fairly confident we’ll see both (Clemson and South Carolina) in the Top 25 as the season progresses. Both teams could easily have ranked in our preseason Top 25, but we’ll wait a bit and let some of those less established arms prove themselves.”
Fitt’s colleague, Kendall Rogers, added in response to another question that the Gamecocks were “heavily in the discussion for our Top 25” and predicted that they would make the NCAA tournament for the 17th time in the last 19 years.
As expected, the SEC continued to dominate the rankings for both D1Baseball and Baseball America, with eight teams in the top 17 of each poll.
South Carolina baseball opens its season with scrimmages open to the public this weekend and its first game against VMI on Feb. 16 at Founders Park.
Greg Hadley: @GregHadley9