Mark Kingston out as South Carolina’s baseball coach

South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston has been fired after seven seasons.

The news came Monday morning, The State confirmed, less than 24 hours after after the Gamecocks bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the Raleigh Regional. Assistant coach Monte Lee will serve as the interim head coach during the search process, an athletics source said.

Kingston’s USC teams made the NCAAs four times and advanced to two super regionals in his time at the helm but never reached the College World Series. TheBigSpur was the first to report Kingston’s departure.

The next Gamecocks’ coach will be the 31st in program history.

In Raleigh, the Gamecocks fell to N.C. State on Saturday — dropping to the loser’s bracket — and weren’t able to claw uphill and advance to the tournament’s second weekend.

Saturday was also the day Kingston’s contract buyout dropped from $800,000 to $400,000. That’s how much USC will owe him because of his termination.

Now, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner will have to hire his third baseball coach, his third attempt to choose his heir at the position. The first two haven’t gone to plan.

After moving to the AD spot after two national championships and a half-dozen trips to Omaha, Tanner elevated top assistant and recruiting coordinator Chad Holbrook. The in-house hire went 200-106 and resigned after the 2017 season when the Gamecocks didn’t make the postseason.

Kingston was hired ahead of 2018 as somewhat of an unknown. In a three-year stretch with South Florida, he guided the Bulls to a pair of NCAA regionals, but had never appeared in a super regional and had no ties to the Gamecocks or the state of South Carolina.

“We will embrace your expectations,” Kingston said in 2017 at his introductory press conference. “I know what the expectations are. Coach Tanner made sure I knew what the expectations were many, many times.”

Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball tweeted of Kingston’s hire in 2017 that “I really believe Mark Kingston will win big at South Carolina. Have long viewed him as one of those ‘can’t miss’ future SEC/ACC star coaches.”

Kingston led USC to a super regional in his first season before missing the tournament in 2019 and having his 2020 campaign cut short because of the COVID pandemic.

USC missed the postseason again in 2022 with a sub-.500 record. Kingston was retained amid rumblings that a coaching change was being considered. South Carolina responded in 2023 with another super regional appearance.

Tanner in 2017 told reporters what he relayed to Kingston during the interview process.

“All I said was we’ve got to beat Clemson and I’d like to go to Omaha,” Tanner recalled. “And I didn’t really get into more detail than that.”

Kingston’s USC teams won three series out of seven against their in-state rival. The Tigers took both games of the weather-shortened series in 2024.

Meanwhile, Clemson under second-year coach Erik Bakich has been a top 8 national seed in the NCAAs in both his seasons and just advanced to the program’s first super regional since 2010.

Kingston was 217-155 as USC’s coach. His winning percentage (.583) was the lowest among the program’s last five coaches dating back to 1977.

The 2024 South Carolina team finished 37-25 and never quite found a groove.

The Gamecocks spent the first part of the season struggling to hit with runners in scoring position. As spring turned to summer, their pitching began to become less reliable and, though Kingston tried to tinker, South Carolina never found a true ace. The Gamecocks defense, too, got worse as the season progressed, culminating with USC committing nearly 20 errors in postseason play.

The Gamecocks lost their final six regular-season games — swept by both Georgia and Tennessee — and went 13-17 in SEC play. South Carolina found new life in the SEC Tournament, advancing to the semifinals in Hoover, in large part due to the heroics of catcher Cole Messina.

Asked about Kingston’s future by The State before the NCAA Tournament began, Tanner did not sound too down on this season. He pointed out the late-season pitching and defensive struggles but made sure to note the SEC “gauntlet” and some of the big conference victories South Carolina racked up.

The last 5 USC baseball coaches

Ranked by winning percentages

  • Ray Tanner (1997-2012): 738-316 (.714)

  • Bobby Richardson (1970-76): 220-91-2 (.703)

  • June Raines (1977-96): 763-380-2 (.667)

  • Chad Holbrook (2013-17): 200-106 (.654)

  • Mark Kingston (2018-24): 217-155 (.583)

South Carolina under Mark Kingston

  • 2018: 37-26, 17-13 SEC (reached NCAA supers)

  • 2019: 28-28, 8-22 SEC (no NCAAs)

  • 2020: 12-4 / Season canceled

  • 2021: 34-23; 16-14 SEC (reached NCAA regionals)

  • 2022: 27-28, 13-17 SEC (no NCAAs)

  • 2023: 42-21, 16-13 SEC (reached NCAA supers)

  • 2024: 37-25, 13-17 SEC (reached NCAA regionals)