Monday, January 27, 2014
Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina is ranked No. 7 in the nation in the Baseball America Preseason Top 25 as announced on Monday morning. The Gamecocks begin the 2014 season on Friday, Feb. 14 in the first game of a three-game series at Carolina Stadium.
South Carolina is one of eight SEC schools to be ranked in the preseason poll, and the highest ranked of all the SEC squads. Also ranked is Mississippi State (No. 8), LSU (No. 9), Vanderbilt (No. 10), Alabama (No. 21), Florida (No. 23), Texas A&M (No. 24) and Arkansas (No. 25). Virginia is the preseason No. 1 team.
The Gamecocks return seven position starters, nine pitchers and 18 letterwinners from last year’s Super Regional team. Carolina also features a strong crop of newcomers that were ranked the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation earlier this fall by Baseball America.
Returnees include junior infielder/outfielder Joey Pankake (.311-11-42), junior catcher Grayson Greiner (.298-4-38), junior outfielder Connor Bright (.288-4-22), junior outfielder Tanner English (.283-1-25), sophomore infielder Max Schrock (.282-6-39), junior first baseman Kyle Martin (.288-2-10) and senior designated hitter Brison Celek (.307-1-18). Also back from last year's weekend rotation is junior left-hander Jordan Montgomery (6-1, 1.48 ERA) and freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop (7-3, 3.09 ERA).
Greiner played this past summer for Team USA and was a 2013 second-team All-SEC selection. Baseball America ranks Greiner the No. 24 best college prospect for the 2014 MLB Draft as well as the No. 2 best catching prospect in the country.
Pankake earned second-team Preseason All-America honors from the NCBWA and is one of the top returning hitters in the SEC and the country. A participant in last year’s Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Pankake raised his average to .311 last year to go along with 11 homers and 42 RBI and a slugging percentage of .496. Perfect Game USA ranks him No. 30 on the list of top college draft-eligible players for the 2014 MLB Draft with Baseball America listing him No. 40 in the nation.