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Mark Kingston delivers unfortunate news on Gavin Casas’ NCAA Tournament availability

South Carolina coach Mark Kingston announced Thursday afternoon that starting third baseman Gavin Casas will be out for the NCAA Tournament. Casas had surgery Thursday morning on his right hand to repair an injury he suffered in the SEC Tournament last week.

Casas, a senior from Pembroke Pines, Florida, injured his right hand in a win over Kentucky. The SEC Network reported that Casas broke his hamate bone.

That will leave the Gamecocks looking to shuffle the lineup ahead of playing James Madison on Friday at 2 p.m. in the Raleigh Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

“Gavin has surgery this morning and will be unavailable for the rest of the way,” Kingston said. “You’ve got to rely on the doctors, your athletic trainers, specialists, and once they say this is really the only option. And then you combine that with how Gavin is feeling and what strength he is right now, just the normal everyday activities. It became an easy decision.”

Casas finished the season with a .260 batting average with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Talmadge LeCroy started at third base for the bulk of the season before moving to shortstop to give South Carolina a more offensive-minded lineup. He could potentially move back to third base. Tyler Causey and Lee Ellis are two other options to man the hot corner.

LeCroy is hitting .233 with three home runs and 28 RBIs. Causey has not played in almost a month. He has a .253 average with four home runs and 21 RBIs in 30 games.

Kingston said he’s decided on a starter at third but said he will not announce it until Friday when he turns in the lineup card.

“We want to make sure everybody’s on the same page. I’m not trying to be funny. We’ll get that out (Friday). But I feel good about where we are,” Kingston said. “I think they’ll both be ready to go.”

Starting pitchers. Kingston also announced at Thursday’s pre-tournament press conference that Eli Jones will start the opener. Jones was the Friday night starter earlier in the season. He has a 3-4 record with a 5.32 ERA in 16 appearances, 14 of which were starts. Jones has pitched 64.1 innings with 52 strikeouts and 19 walks.

“Eli earned the right because he’s one of the most mature guys, has been there before,” Kingston said. “He’s pitched some really big innings in an NCAA Tournament already. He’s trending in a good direction. And as it relates to how long he’ll go, we’ll just kind of let the game dictate that.”

James Madison will counter with RHP Todd Mozoki. He is 5-1 with a 6.80 ERA. He has pitched 47.2 innings this season with 42 strikeouts and 22 walks. He has allowed nine home runs.

“He’s made a lot of adjustments throughout the season, and he was a weekend starter for us early and pretty much for the first half of the season,” JMU coach Marlin Ikenberry said.

Raleigh Regional schedule

Friday’s games

South Carolina (36-23) vs. James Madison (34-23), 2 p.m. (no TV, streaming on ESPN+)

N.C. State (33-20) vs. Bryant (36-19), 7 p.m. Friday (no TV, streaming on ESPN+)

Saturday’s games

Elimination game, noon (TV TBD, streaming on ESPN+)

Winner’s bracket game, 6 p.m. (TV TBD, streaming on ESPN+)

Sunday’s games

Elimination game, noon (TV TBD, streaming on ESPN+)

Winner’s bracket game, 6 p.m. (TV TBD, streaming on ESPN+)

Monday’s game

If necessary, TBD (TV TBD, streaming on ESPN+)