The list of South Carolina baseball pitchers out for the remainder of the season continues to grow to staggering lengths ahead of the team’s final home series of the year.
Coach Mark Kingston announced Thursday that senior Ridge Chapman, junior Hayden Lehman, sophomore John Gilreath and sophomore Carmen Mlodzinski all will not return this season due to various injuries, joining four other Gamecock pitchers who had previously been ruled out — senior Graham Lawson, sophomore Logan Chapman, sophomore TJ Shook and freshman Julian Bosnic.
USC had already gone without all these pitchers for at least several games — Kingston was confirming they would not return just as South Carolina prepares to host Kentucky at Founders Park for a pivotal series in determining who will advance to the SEC tournament.
Without them, Kingston and pitching coach Skylar Meade have 11 pitchers with collegiate experience at their disposal for the rest of the year. In addition, freshmen position players Josiah Sightler and Brady Allen, who both pitched in high school, will be available to take the mound this weekend, Kingston said.
In conjunction with those moves, Kingston also adjusted his rotation for the weekend, putting junior ace Reid Morgan on Saturday night and going with freshman Cam Tringali for Friday. Sunday’s starter is to be announced but it will likely be split among several relievers going three or four innings.
On the field, junior shortstop George Callil has South Carolina’s second-best batting average in SEC play this year and is third in RBIs, but he will “likely” miss this weekend, Kingston said, as he remains in concussion protocol after colliding with outfielder Brady Allen last Sunday against Vanderbilt.
This weekend will also mark the final home series for South Carolina’s seniors — TJ Hopkins, Chris Cullen and Jacob Olson will be honored Saturday as veterans of the program.
“While I’m on the field I can’t be thinking about (it being my last series), obviously,” Olson said. “I’ve had so many memories here and so many good times on this field, and I can’t even put into words how special all of that is to me.”
In the moment, the Gamecocks are still fighting to avoid one of the worst seasons the program has had in 25 years, and that has made appreciating their senior season difficult at times.
“It’s been really difficult. It’s just been a hard year to take in,” Hopkins said. “It reminded me a lot of my sophomore year — we were just so close to a lot of games, and one thing here, one thing there goes wrong and it is what it is. Just gotta keep moving forward.”
Still, all three expressed appreciation and gratitude for their time at South Carolina.
“All the relationships, all the players that have come through this program that I’ve been able to become close with and share the field with — those are memories that I’ll cherish forever,’ Cullen said.
HOW TO WATCH
Who: South Carolina (24-24, 5-19 SEC) vs. Kentucky (24-24, 6-18 SEC)
When: 7 p.m. Friday,
12 p.m. Saturday
12 p.m. Sunday
Where: Founders Park
Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia area