Most pitchers are creatures of habit. South Carolina junior pitcher Will Sanders is a cool customer when it comes to routine.
“I have to get in cold water before I pitch,” Sanders said. “Whether it’s a shower, bath, or pool. Cold water. When the games are in Columbia, I’ll go to the Strom and swim or float around to get my body loose. Road games, it’s a shower or a hotel pool. Anything really. That started last year before the Clemson game. It just made me feel like I was prepared, so that’s what I want to keep doing.”
Sanders looks to be a regular in South Carolina’s weekend starting rotation and noted that he’s just a guy who always wants the ball.
“It doesn’t matter which game I get the ball,” Sanders said. “When that ball is in my hands, whoever steps in the box, my mentality is that I’m going to beat you. It doesn’t matter what team we are playing or where we are.
“If the coaches would let me, I would pitch every day. The thing that I like to do when I’m not pitching is to make sure that everybody knows we love this team, and that we care about this team. It’s just as important on the days I don’t pitch as the days that I do. We let the team know that we have got their back every game.”
“I still have a whole bunch of stuff to prove here in Columbia to this team.”
Sanders has certainly earned his pinstripes to be a front of the rotation guy. He earned SEC All-Freshman Perfect Game and Freshman All-America honors in 2021 after going 6-3 with a 3.54 ERA, a save and 54 strikeouts in 53.1 innings pitched. He endeared himself to Gamecock fans by earning wins in back-to-back games against Clemson. He followed that up last year by going 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 89.1 innings pitched, finishing tenth in the SEC in both ERA and Ks. His star burned brightly against Clemson as he struck out a career high 14 batters in seven innings against the Tigers and earned the Tom Price Award as the team’s MVP for the series.
“I knew about the rivalry when I committed, but I’m from Georgia, and the only thing I could compare it to was Georgia/Georgia Tech,” Sanders said. “It didn’t really settle into my mind how important it was when I got into my freshman year. Last year, getting the Tom Price award was a very big honor to me. The person who made me realize how big of an honor that was, was (former teammate) Andrew Eyster. We were on the bus, and he let me know how much it meant to him that I got it. It was just him wanting me to see how big of an honor it is. I’m excited for the series this year.”
Sanders started pitching when he was eight years old, and he has always loved the competition between pitcher and hitter.
“Even if I don’t have my best stuff that day, I’m going to do everything I can to beat the other team,” Sanders said. “That’s more of a team-oriented mindset because there are nine of us versus one hitter, and that hitter has to try to get on base. He has to figure out a way to get the ball between nine of us on defense. It’s going to be hard with my arsenal.
“The things that have stood out the most are my slider and curveball profile consistency. I’m really happy with where they are at right now, and I’m working every day to keep improving them.”
Pro scouts certainly have Sanders on their radar, but he says he’s not thinking about the next level just yet.
“I still have a whole bunch of stuff to prove here in Columbia to this team,” Sanders said. “My big thing individually is to go out there every time I get the ball and try to put the team in the best position to win. That’s all I can ask for from myself, and that’s what the team needs me to do. I’m super excited. Our team is in a great position this year, and there are great things to come.”