College Sports

Why Josiah Sightler might get more chances in South Carolina lineup

Josiah Sightler probably never imagined an .063 batting average could look so good.

The South Carolina freshman was ranked the No. 1 player in the state last year by Diamond Prospects. He was drafted in the 12th round by the Cincinnati Reds out of Swansea High School, and he was in the Gamecocks’ opening day lineup at first base.

Then reality hit: A sport that had always come easily was anything but. Sightler struggled with college pitching and quickly found himself out of the starting lineup.

“I have never faced pitching like this before, and it’s definitely a big jump from the pitching I have seen,” he said.

Such a big jump that he didn’t record his first collegiate hit until Tuesday night in a 10-3 win over Charleston Southern in Augusta. After an 0-for-12 start, Sightler and his coach hope it’s a turning point for the talented left-hander.

“I just thought it was time to give him a shot,” South Carolina coach Mark Kingston said of inserting Sightler into the starting lineup as the designated hitter. “We know there’s a lot of talent there but some big inconsistencies have kept him out of the lineup.”

Sightler’s first hit was a big one, a line-drive triple that banged off the top of the left field wall.

“He had some big swings there, still had two strikeouts but he hit the triple and he had the ball that could have been a double. Good night for him,” Kingston said.

“It felt really good. It was a long time coming, but it felt really good,” Sightler said. “It’s been very frustrating. It’s something I’ve never been through before. Coach told me I was in the lineup, and I was like, ‘All right, it’s time for me to take advantage of it,’ and I feel like I did. It’s just persevering and just putting in the work and I feel like I have been.”

Sightler has had to make adjustments to his swing since arriving at South Carolina and has become much more comfortable with it in the last two weeks, he said. It’s to-be-determined whether he gets more at-bats this weekend against Missouri and the Tigers’ left-handed pitchers, Kingston said.

“I’m seeing the ball better and I’m more comfortable in the box,” Sightler said.

He received a big welcome into the Gamecocks dugout when he scored after the triple.

“It was very surreal,” he said. “It was something I had been looking forward to.”

How to watch USC vs. Missouri

Who: South Carolina (24-17, 5-13 SEC) at Missouri (27-15-1, 7-10-1)

All three games at Taylor Stadium in Columbia, Missouri, are available via live stream on SEC Network Plus through the WatchESPN app.

Game 1: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Game 2: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Game 3: 3 p.m. Sunday