South Carolina baseball fans love their starting catcher.
Cole Messina was a stud for the Gamecocks in 2023, providing elite offensive production (17 home runs, 18 doubles, 60 RBI, and a .307/.428/.615/1.043 slash line) and even better work with the Carolina pitching staff. He was a no-brainer selection for All-American honors, and he had one of the season's most memorable moments with a heavily-celebrated home run that that was hit so far that it hit off of buildings across the street as it shut the door on the rival Clemson Tigers in game 2 of the rivalry series in Greenville.
Messina was a great leader for the Gamecocks, too, and when injuries decimated the Carolina infield, the starting catcher filled in at both third base and first base. However, the team missed him behind the plate as the pitching staff struggled without him donning the mask.
The impact of Cole Messina last year made him the clear pick as the best catcher in the country heading into the 2024 season, and he was honored as such by D1Baseball. The national outlet considered both past production and projected impact in their rankings of the top-50 catchers in the country, and #19 rightfully came out on top.
He returns to the middle of the Gamecock lineup to hit alongside fellow preseason 1st-team All-American Ethan Petry and high-upside bats like Gavin Casas (19 home runs in 2023) and Kennedy Jones (one of the top transfer portal players from this past offseason).
Messina also comes back to help lead a South Carolina baseball pitching staff with a new pitching coach (former Liberty assistant Matt Williams) after losing five players (or six if one counts incoming transfer Matt Duffy) to the 2023 MLB Draft.
Messina and the Gamecocks have high expectations for the 2024 season, and first pitch for USC will come in just over two weeks as the Miami (OH) Redhawks come to Columbia for a 3-game series.