By Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe
New South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston has had plenty of important and difficult decisions to make since taking over the Gamecock program on June 30.
One of the easiest was retaining assistant coaches Jerry Meyers and Stuart Lake and filling out the rest of his staff.
Kingston announced Wednesday that Meyers would return as pitching coach, while Lake would remain as an assistant coach and Tyson Lusk would continue as Director of Baseball Operations Tyson Lusk. They will be joined by former South Florida assistant Mike Current and Director of Player Personnel Trip Couch.
Meyers, who has been with the Gamecock program the past 15 years, is regarded as one of the top pitching coaches in the nation. He was a South Carolina assistant from 1997-2004 and returned to Carolina in August of 2010 to coach the pitchers following six years as head coach at Old Dominion. He was the pitching coach when the Gamecocks won the national title in 2011, as well as when USC returned to the College World Series championship series in 2012.
"I did my homework. Jerry helped this program win a national championship," Kingston said in an interview at Founders Park Wednesday. "I talked to pitchers and without fail they were all hoping that he would be back. I talked to college coaches around the country who played against South Carolina and scouts who had scouted us and every time it game back positive, positive, positive."
Kingston called Meyers "a calming influence on our players" and "a great sounding board for me."
In 2017, the South Carolina pitching staff logged a 3.72 team ERA. The Gamecocks struck out 563 batters while walking just 219 in 540 innings and limiting opponents to a .233 batting average. South Carolina's 3.85 ERA in SEC games was third in the conference.
Under Meyers, five Gamecock pitchers were selected in the 2017 MLB Draft, including Clarke Schmidt (first round – Yankees), Wil Crowe (second round – Nationals), Tyler Johnson (fifth round – White Sox), Josh Reagan (15th round – Athletics) and John Parke (21st round – White Sox).
Lake joined the Gamecock staff in 2017 as the Coordinator of Baseball Administration and Director of Player Development after serving as the head coach at Charleston Southern from 2009-16. He moved into the volunteer coach role midway through the 2017 season. Lake previously served as the Gamecocks’ volunteer assistant from 1999-2002 and was an assistant coach at The Citadel, Ole Miss and College of Charleston.
Kingston lauded his leadership and organizations skills, as well as the respect he has among current players and throughout the state.
"Having Stuart in that assistant coaching position, who has a great loyalty to this place, who left a Division 1 head coaching opportunity to come back to South Carolina, to me that speaks volumes," Kingston said. "Having a guy who cares that much about this program is very important and he is another guy who is well respected in our business.
"So to keep those guys on staff and have continuity so they can help in the transition and help us with the right calls and connections and make sure we can navigate around the state and this region effectively (is important). Bringing in Mike Current and Trip Couch, along with myself, to kind of have fresh eyes on the program, I think it is a really good mix of what I want in a staff."
Current spent the past three seasons at USF with Kingston, serving as the team's assistant coach, recruiting coordinator, hitting coach and working with the outfielders. From 2015-17, Current helped the Bulls make a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. He also helped Kingston build the program at Illinois State, which won 173 games and two Missouri Valley conference championshipsunder the duo.
Current was also instrumental in South Florida landing a top-10 recruiting class in 2015, which led to the Bulls' 42-win season and NCAA Tournament appearance this year.
“Mike is one of the brightest, most detail-oriented young coaches in the country,” Kingston said in a press release. “He has been with me for nine years, and I have full trust in his talents. He thinks the game at a very high level, and the people around him will be challenged to do the same. A skilled talent evaluator, he will lead our recruiting efforts, while also coaching our hitters and outfielders."
A former Arizona Diamondbacks scout, Couch comes to Carolina from the University of Houston, where he was an assistant coach from 1995-2000 and again from 2010-17. Most recently, he served as the Cougars’ recruiting coordinator and was responsible for coaching the outfielders and catchers and implementing the short game offensively. He helped the Cougars capture four regular-season conference titles and four conference tournament championships. He also served as an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette (1991-92) and at the University of Texas (2001).
“When this job presented itself, I immediately knew I wanted Trip along to help maximize the program,” Kingston said. “While he can no longer recruit off campus or coach players on the field, he can be a major asset in the overall development of our program for both players and coaches. … He is an amazing baseball mind, and will be a tremendous mentor to our players as they navigate through the demands of being a South Carolina student-athlete.”
Lusk joined the Gamecock staff in August of 2013. He came to Columbia after four years as clubhouse/equipment manager with the University of North Carolina and eight seasons overall with the Tar Heel baseball program.
“From the second I met Tyson he has been an incredible help in my transition to South Carolina,” Kingston said. “He is a tireless worker, amazingly organized, and on top of every conceivable detail. He has been around numerous Omaha teams and knows exactly how things should be done at the highest level. We are lucky to have him in our office, and the entire organization is better because of his abilities.”