USC Gamecocks Baseball

19 broken bones, a Chinese restaurant door and one special home run for this Gamecock

Mark Kingston ‘pleasantly surprised’ by Gamecocks’ power, pitching ‘needs to evolve’

South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston evaluates his team about a quarter of the way through the 2019 season, including the Gamecocks' power-hitting numbers and USC's injury-riddled pitching staff.
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South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston evaluates his team about a quarter of the way through the 2019 season, including the Gamecocks' power-hitting numbers and USC's injury-riddled pitching staff.

When South Carolina baseball defeated Valparaiso on Sunday, 12-6, there were several strong candidates to get the game ball.

Senior TJ Hopkins hit for the cycle, the first USC player to do that since 2015, and senior Jacob Olson hit two home runs, plus three hits and had five RBIs, all tied for personal bests.

Instead, coach Mark Kingston honored redshirt freshman Ian Jenkins, who went 3-for-4 with two runs, an RBI and a home run, the first of his collegiate career.

Based off stats alone, Jenkins wasn’t the most impressive Gamecock on Sunday. But the history and hardship behind Jenkins’ game is staggering.

“I’ve broken 19 bones, torn five ligaments and had four surgeries. So I’ve had a lot of reasons to quit baseball,” Jenkins said. “But I guess a love of the game compels me to keep going on. Days like this are why I keep going on, and it was really fun.”

When you’ve been injured as often as Jenkins has, it can become almost comical, and Jenkins does have a sense of humor about some of the freak accidents that have sidelined him.

“I played football,” Jenkins said. “But I actually get hurt doing stupid stuff (like) walking into a Chinese (restaurant) door, oh, foot’s broken.”

Yes, that really happened, he clarified. It was the third metatarsal and happened in his freshman year of high school. He’ll still order from that restaurant, he joked, but he’ll never go back inside.

Beyond the bizarre injuries, Jenkins has also put in hours upon hours of work since he came to South Carolina, trying to get better, Kingston said.

“He’s taken 10 million swings since he got on campus,” Kingston said.

That number is probably a bit of an exaggeration, Jenkins said with a smile. But he has worked hard with Kingston to refine his technique — lately, both said, that meant cutting down to make his swing shorter.

“He takes as many swings as anybody, but just recently we’ve seen a shorter swing, a swing that we thought might have a chance to play in the game,” Kingston said.

In doing so, Jenkins said, he tried to emulate his favorite hitter, Barry Bonds, and focus on making contact.

“I started choking up the bat some. My power’s useless if I can’t make contact, so coach (Kingston) and I just worked on a shorter swing and being direct to the ball, and once I did that, I think stuff started happening for me,” Jenkins said.

Kingston put him in the lineup Saturday at DH, but while he showed improvement throughout the course of the game, he finished 0 for 3 at the plate with a strikeout. Still, Kingston gave him another chance, and it all culminated Sunday in the third inning, when Jenkins went deep with a 420-foot blast to center field to open the scoring and give South Carolina an early lead.

“When the ball left my bat, I was elated, and to see my teammates congratulate me after that, it was amazing,” Jenkins said.

He then went on to double and score in the fifth inning, then single in the eighth before a pinch runner took his place. For his teammates, such a performance was hardly shocking.

“It honestly didn’t surprise me. I know that might sound crazy, but I’ve hit a lot with him and I always tell him how gifted of a hitter he is. He puts the work in. It’s just awesome to see him go out there and do that,” Hopkins said.

Greg Hadley: @GregHadley9

Next.

Tuesday: In Charleston to play The Citadel (7 p.m.). The game will be streamed online on the SoCon Digital Network. Freshman right-hander Daniel Lloyd (1-0, 5.40 ERA, 3.1 IP, 2 BB, 4 SO) is expected to start for USC.

Updated D1Baseball Top 25

Rank

Team

Overall Record

Record Last Week

Previous Rank

1

Vanderbilt

13-3

4-1

1

2

UCLA

11-3

2-1

2

3

Oregon State

12-1-1

2-0

4

4

Stanford

12-3

3-1

6

5

Florida

13-5

4-1

5

6

Mississippi State

15-1

5-0

7

7

Louisville

11-4

3-1

8

8

Georgia

14-2

5-0

9

9

Ole Miss

12-3

4-1

10

10

Florida State

13-1

3-1

11

11

Texas Tech

11-3

5-0

14

12

Texas

12-6

2-3

12

13

LSU

11-4

3-1

13

14

Arkansas

12-2

3-1

15

15

North Carolina

12-4

1-3

3

16

Coastal Carolina

13-3-1

3-1

17

17

East Carolina

12-5

4-1

18

18

Auburn

14-2

5-0

19

19

Texas A&M

15-3

4-1

20

20

NC State

15-0

4-0

22

21

TCU

9-5

3-1

23

22

South Carolina

13-3

4-1

24

23

Tennessee

15-1

3-1

25

24

Clemson

12-3

4-0

NR

25

Arizona State

15-0

4-0

NR

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.


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