Kingston: "Home field advantage is key"
It’s not in Mark Kingston’s job description to say how many fans should be allowed at Founders Park, and he doesn’t want it to be.
What he does want is for every available seat to be filled and fans to be loud, like they were Sunday afternoon in what turned into a raucous crowd at Founders Park.
“All I can tell you is as many fans they allow in I hope come. Whatever the powers that be say can come here I hope we sell every ticket. This is a fun team to watch. I know our fans love it and have great baseball fans,” Kingston said. “But all I can tell the powers that be is we love having fans here. We love when they’re allowed to be emotional.”
The crowd Sunday was frenzied, so much so there were multiple arguments between players and fans in the later innings of South Carolina’s 13-4 win.
Shortstop Josh Day and a few Missouri staff members were arguing trying to have a few hecklers thrown out, delaying the game for a few minutes as that kerfuffle ended after the seventh inning.
“At that point we were trying to figure out what was the responsibility of security, what was the responsibility of umpires. It seemed there was a little bit of crossover. At that point we just wanted to play ball,” Kingston said. “Brett Kerry did a great job handling all of the chaos all around him and the stops in play and waiting to pitch. There’s a lot of stuff he had to deal with and I thought he did a great job.”
After Brett Kerry mowed through the order in the eighth, Stuart Lake exchanged words with the Missouri dugout after clapping and waving to the same hecklers between innings, prompting another delay.
The Gamecocks exploded for five runs in the inning to put the game away, getting three RBI hits, including a two-run shot from Andrew Eyster.
“It was great. It was great to feed off our fans and play to our best,” Kerry said. “The ninth inning the bats showed what they were all about and we took care of business. It’s a blast playing in our park when the fans are doing their job.”
Sunday’s game came after Ray Tanner issued a statement Saturday night saying no fans will be removed for “appropriate heckling” and encouraged fans to “have some fun tomorrow and win the series over Mizzou!”
“It was pretty crazy. That’s probably the most fans I’ve played in front of in a while,” Brennan Milone said. “Obviously whatever started happening was crazy and they were getting loud. It was cool to see.”
The Gamecocks have one more home game this week Tuesday against Charleston Southern before hitting the road.
Their next home series is a Thursday-Saturday set starting April 23, and the Gamecocks want another good home environment.
“Our guys feed off of it. They’ve all seen the videos of a while ago from this place when it was packed full pre-pandemic. They see how emotional and great it can get and how exciting it is. They love that,” Kingston said. “Hopefully we keep playing well and hopefully they keep letting more fans in cause it can be a really fun ride. We love the fans; love the emotion. Obviously we don’t want anyone to cross a line but home field advantage is key.”