Head coach Mark Kingston has officially announced the 2017-18 University of South Carolina baseball coaching staff. Mike Current joins the Carolina baseball program as the recruiting coordinator following a stint with Kingston at USF, while longtime Gamecock Jerry Meyers has been retained as the pitching coach. Stuart Lake will return as an assistant coach and camp coordinator, Trip Couch has been named the Director of Player Development, and Tyson Lusk has been retained as the Director of Baseball Operations.
“We are very excited to announce our baseball staff moving forward with South Carolina Baseball,” said Coach Kingston. “This group shares my vision for what this program should be. We will collaborate daily to make sure our student-athletes reach their potential and are well positioned to attain all of their goals on and off the field. The additions of Mike Current and Trip Couch, and retention of Jerry Meyers, Stuart Lake, and Tyson Lusk give us a group as accomplished as any in the country. Our players will be thrilled to be mentored daily by this outstanding group.”
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.
“Mike is one of the brightest, most detail-oriented young coaches in the country,” noted Kingston. “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.”
In 2017, USF hit .287 as a team, with three players averaging over .330. Shortstop Kevin Merrell led the Bulls and The American Athletic Conference with a .383 average and, along with DH Luke Borders and outfielder Duke Stunkel Jr., earned all-conference honors. Merrell was selected 33rd overall in the MLB Amateur Draft by the Oakland Athletics, the third-highest drafted player in program history, and was named an All-American by four different publications.
During the 2016 season, the Bulls belted 36 home runs, the most for the team since 2010. USF also posted 66 stolen bases, giving the Bulls a two-year total of 140, the highest two-year stolen base total since 2002-03.
In Current’s first season at USF, the Bulls reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002 after hitting an AAC best .277 in conference play (a 40-point improvement over 2014). Shortstop Kyle Teaf earned NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament honors and was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 30th round of the MLB Amateur Draft. Catcher Levi Borders earned first team All-AAC honors and second baseman Kevin Merrell was named a second-team Freshman All-American by the NCBWA. Current was also instrumental in helping the Bulls to a consensus top-10 recruiting class in the fall of 2015 (No. 5 by Perfect Game, No. 7 according to D1Baseball.com, No. 8 ranking by Baseball America and No. 9 from Collegiate Baseball), the program’s first ever top-25 recruiting class.
Current arrived at USF after playing a major role in the transformation of the Illinois State University program during a nine-year stint in Normal. Over his final five seasons, ISU racked up 173 wins and picked up a pair of Missouri Valley Conference regular season championships, an MVC tournament title and twice set the program’s record for wins. Illinois State hitters led the MVC in runs scored and OPS three times in his final four seasons, while 19 Redbird position players earned All-MVC honors and 10 were named first team all-conference, both were more than any other MVC team over that time period.
A total of 53 student-athletes earned All-MVC honors under Current, including Kevin Tokarski who became the first Redbird ever to win MVC Player of the Year honors in 2010. In all, Current has coached 49 players who have been drafted and six of whom have reached the Major League level.
Regarded as one of the nation’s top pitching coaches, Jerry Meyers recently completed his 15th year associated with the Gamecock baseball program. Meyers, who served as an assistant at South Carolina from the 1997-2004 seasons, 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.
“Jerry was a very easy decision for me to keep on staff,” noted Kingston. “He is very respected by his pitchers, but also around the baseball world among scouts and college coaches. His familiarity with USC baseball has already been a major asset in my transition. He is a calming influence on our players, and as a former Division I head coach, a great sounding board for me. He has won a National Championship here, and I think he can help us do it again.”
In 2017, The South Carolina pitching staff logged a 3.72 team ERA with 223 earned runs allowed on 470 hits in 540.0 innings pitched. The Gamecocks struck out 563 batters while walking just 219 and limiting opponents to a .233 batting average. South Carolina's 3.85 ERA in SEC games was third in the conference as well. The Gamecocks had 225 strikeouts in 243.0 innings during conference play.
Under Meyers tutelage, five Gamecock hurlers 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 Gamecocks’ 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 logged stints as an assistant coach at The Citadel, Ole Miss and College of Charleston. He was named the Big South Coach of the Year in 2011.
“Stuart was also an easy decision to retain on staff,” said Kingston. “He knows our state as well as anybody, and is well-respected among his peers and players alike. Like Jerry, a former Division I Head Coach, he possesses skills that are not easily found in assistants. He has great organizational and leadership skills, and great perspective on what we need to be successful here.”
Couch comes to Carolina from the University of Houston, where he logged stints as 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 catches and implementing the short game offensively. During his time in Houston, he helped the Cougars capture four regular season conference titles and four conference tournament championships.
Couch also served as an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette (1991-92) and at the University of Texas (2001). Overall, he helped his teams to 11 NCAA postseason tournaments. Couch also has experience as a Major League scout, working with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was a member of the Team USA coaching staff in 1999 and served as coach at the Area Code Games as well as on the staff of the Pony Team at the Tournament of Stars where the 18U USA National Team is selected.
“When this job presented itself, I immediately knew I wanted Trip along to help maximize the program,” noted Kingston. “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 very respected as a former nine-year professional scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and most recently as recruiting coordinator for the 2017 NCAA Regional host Houston Cougars. 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. Before entering his role as equipment manager, Lusk was the head student manager for UNC from 2005-09. While with the Tar Heels program, Lusk worked with six College World Series teams and eight NCAA Tournament squads.
“From the second I met Tyson he has been an incredible help in my transition to South Carolina,” said Kingston. “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.”