South Carolina's baseball team will lean heavily on several newcomers in 2012, with true freshman Joey Pankake in line to take over at shortstop.
Pankake - ranked the No. 39 freshman in this class by Baseball America - has made an impression on USC coaches with his strong arm and solid bat.
He will replace a pair of shortstops that came from junior college, first Bobby Haney and then Peter Mooney.
Pankake, who is from Easley, was drafted as a pitcher in 42nd round by the Texas Rangers.
How's it going so far as a Gamecock?
It's been really great. The coaches have been really helpful in improving my defense, even hitting too. I feel like I've gotten better all around as a player. All the older guys help you settle and get going on the right step.
Ray Tanner historically doesn't play true freshmen that often. What does it mean to be where you are already?
I guess I made a good impression on him. He's really working with me. He's helped me out. He's kind of in my back pocket the whole practice. That's really helped me a lot that he's been there for me.
What is the story behind the MLB Draft and deciding to come to USC?
I made the decision I didn't want to get drafted as a pitcher. I've been told I couldn't play at the next level as a shortstop, and I always felt like I could. I felt like I could hit. I wasn't ready to give up hitting just yet. I wanted to give it my all and see what I can do.
I got drafted in the late rounds as a pitcher. It was the 42nd round and they knew I was committed to a great school in South Carolina. They pretty much knew, so it wasn't that hard to say no.
What are your goals as USC's shortstop?
Just trying to be more consistent and get my share of hits. Consistency is the main thing out in the field. You've got to make all the routine plays, and some great plays help.
Is there any pressure in being a true freshman on a back-to-back national championship team?
It brings a little bit of pressure, but coach has been pretty accepting. He knows all the guys coming in are young. It's been great. It's pressure, but it's also really fun being part of a great program like this.