Matt Connolly

South Carolina needs John Jones’ attitude, mindset in the lineup

John Jones is hitting .087 on the year and did not have a hit entering this weekend’s series against Kentucky.

He had barely stepped on the field before Friday night, making only two starts in USC’s first 39 games.

But with South Carolina’s season looking more and more like it is headed in the wrong direction, Jones needs to get plenty of opportunities moving forward.

Forget the numbers, the Gamecocks need Jones in the lineup.

South Carolina’s struggles this season have been as much mental as anything.

The Gamecocks have scuffled in big situations time and time again, whether it be on the mound or at the plate. The tighter the game, the later the game, the worse South Carolina has played.

USC has also lacked fire at times. South Carolina has plenty of good players, but not many of them play with an in-your-face attitude that is needed in a lineup.

Do you need every player on the field jawing at the opposition or staring down the opposing dugout after a big hit? No. Can it make a difference to have someone on your team playing with that kind of emotion? Absolutely.

Jones made three great defensive plays Saturday against Kentucky, including twice getting a tag down on a Jacob Olson throw at the plate to keep a runner from scoring.

He exchanged words with Kentucky players a few different times throughout the afternoon and stared into the Wildcats’ dugout as he rounded third after hitting a no-doubt homer to right in the fifth inning.

Jones wouldn’t say after Sunday’s loss to Kentucky if South Carolina has been missing someone with his type of attitude in the lineup.

“It’s not my job to say what was missing or not missing. I’m not in that position,” he said. “All I can do is control my attitude and hope people catch on with that and take a liking of my attitude.”

So I’ll say it for him. The Gamecocks need his attitude and mindset on the field.

“If you feel like you’re better than them, you’re going to play better. Hopefully that catches. That’s kind of my goal,” Jones said. “You either can hope somebody does it or do it. I’m trying to do it. I’m trying to make stuff happen.”

Jones went 2-for-11 at the plate this weekend but doubled, homered and walked.

In addition to his attitude, Jones also has the ability to carry a team on offense.

His first month and a half of his South Carolina career the switch hitter hit .422 with six homers and 31 RBIs.

He has not consistently shown that ability since, but maybe Sunday’s home run is the start of Jones getting hot and turning this season around, for himself and for South Carolina.

Jones has been patiently waiting for his opportunity and believes he can make a difference.

“Every time I do something, I try to make sure coach sees it. I want to play. But it’s not my decision, and I’m not going to get mad. It’s his job to make the starting nine. That’s why he’s our coach and I’m not,” Jones said. “I believe in myself. It’s more of a chip on my shoulder. It gave me more confidence wanting to prove to myself that I can do it. That really drives me.”