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Everything Mark Kingston said previewing South Carolina's series with Tennessee

imageby:Jack Veltri05/14/24


Before heading out to Knoxville this week, head coach Mark Kingston met with the local media on Tuesday to preview South Carolina’s three-game series with Tennessee. Here’s what he had to say.

Opening statement

“Hard to believe it’s the last weekend of conference play already. This season really has flown by. Getting ready to head on the road to the number one team in the country. So we’re very excited about that opportunity. And then after that, the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. So, as Bill Belichick would say, right now we’re onto Tennessee, and that’s our focus.”

On weekend rotation for this series

“Not ready to announce it yet, not ready to announce it.”

On if there’s any extra sense of urgency to get back on track after being swept and rack up some more wins to solidify postseason status

“Sense of urgency is something that’s always in an SEC baseball program. I wouldn’t say there’s ever not a sense of urgency, and that starts on day one of the fall. There’s always a sense of urgency. If you have to ramp that up because you had a tough weekend, then something’s wrong. We always have a sense of urgency, and the guys know that every day is to be taken advantage of. And so that never changes.”

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On what the team wants to get out of this weekend to put themselves in a better position

“You can’t look too far ahead, because it does you no good. You just have to try to win the next game. And if you win the next game, then you try to win the game after that. Belaboring RPIs and all that stuff, it does nothing to help you win the games. At the end of the season, they look at your RPI, they look at your record, they look at your strength of schedule, and they decide who did enough to get there in the NCAA Tournament. So all we can do is control what we can control. And that’s to try to win baseball games and everything else is a byproduct of that.”

On handling emotions of pitching staff and finding the right guys to get outs

“I think number one is they’ve got to know we have their back. I think that’s really important because confidence is such a big part of success. And so they need to know we have their back. Even if we change their role, it doesn’t mean we don’t believe in you, it just means that we think this might be a better role for the team and for you right now. And so I think that’s the number one thing is just to continue to let them know, ‘We think we can win with you. We know we can win with you.’ We’re going to make some adjustments, potentially. But when you get the ball go out there and be the best you can be. Obviously, we struggled a lot on the mound this weekend. I think Georgia had a lot to do with that. It’s an incredible offense that they put together. But it was one weekend and you just have to move on.”

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On what the mood has been like for the players since the series sweep over the weekend

“Guys are fine. Look, it’s a long season. The SEC, I’ve said it a million times, if you’re looking to go undefeated, don’t play in the SEC. If you’re looking to have glossy records, this is probably not the league for you. This is a league about being really good, surviving it and then getting to the postseason. Most of the time for most of the teams. Obviously, some teams go on a magical run, and they get to the point where they have everything in place to dominate our league. It doesn’t happen very often. But for the most part, our league is about surviving it, staying as even keel as you can through the 30-game marathon that our league is, and then get to the postseason and get hot. That’s how Mississippi State did it and won a national championship. That’s how Ole Miss did it and won a national championship. That’s what our league is.”

On what he saw on tape watching Eli Jones’ last start and what they’re looking to correct this week

“Yeah, his control and his movement haven’t been what they were when he’s at his best. And I know Matt thinks he found something with him that they’ve been able to work on. I was just watching him throw a bullpen just a few minutes ago. And we’re hopeful that the adjustment that they’re making will pay dividends and get him back to where he was when he was a Friday night starter. Because at the end of the day, I believe deep in my heart if we can get a lot of these guys to just play close to their full capacity, we can and will beat anybody in the country. But we have to get them there. We need Eli to be the Friday night type starter. We need all these guys to hit the way they’re capable. We need our pitchers to be at the top of their game. If we do that, that’s how you get hot when it really matters.”

On the opportunity to go on the road to play the No. 1 team in the country and what that can do

“Well, it feels like we’ve played top one, two or three teams all year. So this is nothing new to us. We have played now after this weekend, we will have played the top seven RPI teams in the country, every single one of all seven. And so we’re used to playing the best of the best, we’re used to winning games against the best of the best. And this will probably be as big a challenge as we’ve had, because it’s now on the road to finish the season. So it’s a challenge. It’s an opportunity and it’s up to us to take advantage of.”

On if Tennessee playing for an SEC regular season title plays a factor in a team’s mindset this weekend

“Well, I’m sure they have something to play for. We all have something to play for. So at the end of the day, you’ve seen that galvanize teams and you’ve seen teams sometimes play not their best because they want something so bad. So I think when we get there, it’s going to be baseball. It’s going to be who pitches better, who hits better, who takes clutch at-bats, who plays better on defense, it’s just going to be baseball games. At the end of the weekend, someone will have played better and won the series. It’s just as simple as that.”

On if there’s anything that stands out about Tennessee

“Well, it’s power. There’s no question. They have five guys that have double-digit homers. I mean, look at the stats. They have five guys within striking distance of getting 20 by the end of the season. So it’s a power team. They’ve been a power team now for quite some time. And the pitching is under a 4.00 ERA and they field .979. So it’s a well-rounded team. No question about it.”

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