Mark Kingston explains new roles for coaching staff
Fresh off a disappointing season that ended with its worst record since 1996, South Carolina baseball is making some adjustments in the dugout, coach Mark Kingston announced Tuesday.
Mike Current, who has served as the assistant coach, hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for the past two seasons, will become the Gamecocks’ director of player development, an off-field role previously held by Trip Couch. Couch will take Current’s place as recruiting coordinator and on-field coach, and volunteer assistant coach Stuart Lake will take his place as hitting coach, working that role full-time.
Meanwhile, former player Justin Row, who served as an undergraduate assistant, is graduating and heading to the Cape Cod League, Kingston said, where the Gamecocks are working to get him a coaching job. He’ll be replaced by Sawyer Bridges, another former player who announced shortly after the conclusion of this past season that he would stop pitching due to injury.
The only coach unaffected by the changes is pitching coach Skylar Meade.
The purpose of the changes, Kingston said, is to “really optimize everyone’s talents on our coaching staff.”
Current is the only coach on the staff who has worked with Kingston before South Carolina, following him through stints at South Florida and Illinois State. That long relationship led Kingston to believe he is best suited to help the Gamecocks by becoming more intimately involved in the behind-the-scenes work of the program as opposed to going on the road recruiting.
“Mike Current has done a really good job on the recruiting trail for us, but with me, he’s always been close to me in terms of the inner workings of our program, and he has not been able to do that for the last two years. And I think that’s where he really helps me the most,” Kingston said. “He also has a second child on the way, so I think it’s a win-win from that standpoint.”
For Couch, the new job will mark a return to his background as an MLB scout, Kingston said.
“Trip Couch is one of the highest regarded talent evaluators in the country, has been for a long time both at the college and professional level. Nine years as a scout with the Diamondbacks, so I think that puts him in a perfect role for him,” Kingston said.
Kingston’s move to install Lake as the hitting coach is a small tweak from previous years at USC. Under former coach Chad Holbrook, assistant coaches Sammy Esposito and Brian Buscher were both listed as working with hitters in the team’s media guide, but neither was officially titled as the team’s hitting coach. Esposito served as recruiting coordinator, and Buscher coached first base for the most part before moving to the dugout midway through 2017. Under Ray Tanner, Holbrook served as hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator.
In this new system, Kingston hopes, Lake will be able to dedicate his full attention to Carolina’s hitters, who posted a historically poor 2019 season.
“Stuart Lake has developed a ton of hitters over the years, here, Ole Miss, a lot of places he’s been, and last year with Mike Current being the hitting coach/recruiting coordinator, he kinda got spread thin. When he was recruiting, he was away from the hitters and when he was with the hitters, he was away from the recruiting, so this is a much more seamless way to have everybody doing their strengths and making sure nothing is missed,” Kingston said.