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Gainey Brings the Heat and Passion to the Mound

by Brad Muller

Outward displays of emotion are more common and accepted in college sports today. For South Carolina senior pitcher Garrett Gainey, showing emotion after getting a big out doesn’t mean he’s trying to show-up his opponent or even make a name for himself in social media cycles. It’s simply genuine joy in doing his part to help the team win.

“I feel like I’m my own type of person, on the field and off the field. I just try to bring the energy at all times,” said Gainey, a lefthander from Hartsville, S.C., who has made 19 appearances in relief for the Gamecocks this year and is tied for second in the Southeastern Conference with six saves. “I feed off the energy that the guys bring in, too. They really back me up when I’m out there and give me a lot of encouragement. It’s great going out there and having that.

“My passion for Jesus Christ is really the only other thing (that he is so passionate about). Baseball has always been my passion. You get a chance to perform, and I get a chance to play in front of my hometown. That’s the biggest thing; getting to come back home and play in front of my family and friends. That’s my drive this year.”

“He’s like a wild bull sometimes where you have to teach him to harness it properly, but you also don’t want to take away his emotion and passion,” said South Carolina head coach Mark Kingston. “You never want to do that as a coach. As a coach, you want to help him harness it and use it to his advantage. I think he has improved in a lot of different ways.”

Garrett Gainey
“Really, just trusting those eight guys behind me is the biggest thing; being able to just throw strikes and trust them. Any role that team needs, that’s what I’ll do.”
Garrett Gainey  . 

Gainey started his collegiate career at Winthrop where he pitched in 31 games with 12 starts over three seasons and had a nearly three-to-one strikeout to walk ratio. He pitched at Liberty last year where he went 4-3 in nine starts while striking out 44 batters with only 18 walks in 47 innings. While his earned run average was higher than he would have liked at his previous stops, when he made the jump to South Carolina, he knew he would have to make adjustments to take his game to the next level.

“I give a lot of credit to (assistant) Coach Matt Williams,” said Gainey. Williams was also his pitching coach at Liberty. “He brought me in at Liberty and did a really good job with me and every pitcher that’s on our staff. He takes the time, one on one, to work with us. Being able to trust my off-speed (pitch) at this point has been a key, so I’m going to keep on doing that.”

“He has really improved in all kinds of ways,” said Kingston. “In terms of his mechanics, they’re as good as they’ve ever been which has led to better velocity and a lot more control. He has learned over the course of the season. He was just over-powering people, then he got into the league (SEC), and he realized he couldn’t always do that, so he has made an adjustment. He has become more of a pitcher as of late. He is mixing his pitches more than he was early in the season, so I’ve seen him evolve there. His velocity is up from where it was in the past.”

While he was new to the Gamecocks this year, it wasn’t hard for him or any of the other newcomers to fit in.

“I feel like having a lot of good competition and playing with a lot of good guys really makes you better,” Gainey said. “The last couple of weeks, we’ve shown the team that we are and the team we can be. Hopefully, we can keep that going.”

Gainey has gone back and forth from being a starter to the bullpen throughout his career, and he’s comfortable in filling whatever role the team needs him to play.

“I feel like I can do either role,” Gainey said. “I can come in late and get the job done or start off and get the job done as well. Anything the team needs. Really, just trusting those eight guys behind me is the biggest thing; being able to just throw strikes and trust them. Any role that team needs, that’s what I’ll do.”

“I’m not afraid to try different things to try to get us a little bit closer to where we could be one hundred percent capacity,” Kingston said. “That’s been jostled around in our coaching staff meetings – do we need to find a different or better role for him? I think what you’ve seen from him, especially last week, is that his outings are longer, much like (fifth year) Ty Good coming out of the bullpen almost as a secondary starter, if you will. Gainey may eventually grow into that.

“There may be one game, maybe it’s in the postseason, where we pull a ‘Michael Roth’ and say, you’re going start your first game. I know Michael’s first start was in the College World Series, and that turned out pretty well. I don’t think you can ever be scared of trying something you’re gut tells you might really help the team. Everything is always on the table.”

Gainey hopes professional baseball is in his future, but whenever his playing days are done, he wants to stay close to the game and become a coach.

“That’s been an aspiration of mine over the last two years,” said Gainey, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in coaching education. “Once ball is over, I’ll take a shot at coaching somewhere.”

For now, Gainey is hoping to help the Gamecocks make a run to Omaha and the College World Series.