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Column: Cole Messina's impact at South Carolina cannot be overstated

imageby:Jack Veltri06/24/24


It seemed like a no-brainer decision. Despite bringing in a new coach, the choice still felt easy. The writing was on the wall.

It’s been a few weeks since South Carolina’s season came to an end and it looks like Cole Messina has reached a decision on his future. The Gamecock slugger made a heartfelt Instagram post on Sunday, sharing his gratitude for South Carolina.

“Thankful for the last 3 @gamecockbaseball,” the post reads on Messina’s Instagram account, which has since been flooded with comments from teammates and fans thanking him in return.

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This all but solidifies what Messina’s next step will be. After last week’s MLB Draft Combine, it looks like he will forgo his senior year and turn pro.

Is this decision surprising? No, not really. Looking at the stats from the last two years in Columbia, no one can really blame him for moving on. His stock is as good as it’s going to be. Why should he run the risk of coming back for one more year?

In ESPN’s latest MLB mock draft, they have Messina going in the second round to the Milwaukee Brewers with the 67th overall pick. For reference, the 67th pick in last year’s draft, Zander Mueth, valued at $1.13 million with a signing bonus of $1.8 million. So Messina would be turning down a major payday to come back to school.

When it’s all set and done, Messina should go down as one of the greatest to ever play baseball for South Carolina. There’s a rich history of tradition and players in Columbia. But it’s hard not to argue Messina belongs in the same conversation as the other big names that have gotten the program to where it is today.

At first, it was unclear what would become of Messina. As a freshman catcher, he rarely saw any playing time with Colin Burgess being the regular starter. When he did play, he definitely struggled. He went 4-for-30 with one RBI in 17 games in 2022.

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But in the last two seasons, Messina’s college career took a complete 180 degree turn. He managed to put himself in the conversation for one of the top catchers in college baseball. Since the start of the 2023 campaign, Messina hit .317 with 38 homers and 136 RBI in 121 games. By the end of this season, it felt like he could be intentionally walked every time he hit. That’s just how good he was at the plate.

While his offensive abilities are definitely what stand out, let’s also not forget about his defense. He’s shown to have a rocket of an arm behind the plate, throwing out 13 runners in 41 attempts in 2024. And he’s also been responsible for working with two vastly different pitching staffs with some pretty good results.

Beyond all that, and this may be the biggest hole he leaves for next year, his leadership was undeniable. Along with his good friend and teammate Ethan Petry, Messina was one of the primary leaders for South Carolina this season. There were so many points throughout the year where the Gamecocks were in a rut and needed a spark. Time and time again, it was usually Messina stepping up and delivering the big hit and throwing out a runner on the base paths.

Sure, South Carolina can go into the transfer portal and find a catcher with a good glove and bat. But it’s going to be much harder to replace someone who can do all those things combined with the other intangibles you won’t find in a box score.

So wherever Messina lands in the MLB Draft next month, one team will be getting one heck of a player.

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