In addition to having a pitching staff that looks to be dominant from top to bottom and a pretty strong defense, South Carolina is also likely to have a solid offense in 2017, though there will be some newcomers who may need time to find a groove. The Gamecocks will be without a few big names from last season, including Gene 31-Game-Hitting-Streak Cone and Dom Thompson-Williams, but other reliable production guys, including juniors Alex Destino and John Jones, will be back to help propel the offense.
Destino was one of the best batters on the team last year, finishing 2016 with a batting average of .321, as well as 59 RBIs and 10 home runs (#DestinoBomb), both of which led the team. He’ll likely be the biggest name on the offense this season, and as a veteran, he’ll also likely be looked to both for offensive production and leadership in the case of a team-wide slump. Jones was extremely hot for a while in 2016 before going through a pretty rough stretch, but he finished the season with a batting average of .269, as well as 49 RBIs and seven homers, good for second- and third-best on the team, respectively. Other familiar names to watch for include sophomores Chris Cullen (.238) and TJ Hopkins (2016 average: .322) and junior Jonah Bride (2016 average: .283).
Sophomore Brandon McIlwain will also look to make an impact this year, after recording just one hit in 2016. He didn’t see a ton of playing time last year, but he should see more this season, especially if his bat heats up. New names like Jacob Olsen and Carlos Cortes are also ones to remember. Coach Chad Holbrook has spoken positively about the freshmen, who have been impressive in practice and scrimmages this year.
The Gamecocks had a team batting average of .291 in 2016, but there were stretches where the offense went missing entirely, or where only a few guys were consistently productive. Ideally, neither of those issues will pop up much this season. Though Holbrook has yet to set the lineup, this year’s batting order should be pretty balanced. While there are still question marks about who will bat and where, and the starters will likely change over the course of the first few weeks, depending on which players show the most success, it looks like Holbrook will have a number of good options to choose from when setting his order.