Josh Reagan hopes strong summer can lead to expanded role with Gamecocks

nwhite@thestate.comJuly 7, 2014 

USC pitcher Josh Reagan

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com

Josh Reagan’s pitching numbers could not have been better than they were at the end of South Carolina’s baseball season.

The left-hander from Lexington High finished his freshman season with a 3-0 record and team-best 0.36 ERA in 14 appearances covering 25 1/3 innings. For a guy who doesn’t throw very hard, Reagan made the transition to college with very few bumps in the road.

The 6-foot, 170-pound Reagan believed that he could help the Gamecocks right away after a senior season in which he led Lexington to a Class AAAA state title with an unblemished record, which included a three-hit shutout in the championship game.

“I was pleased, but I wouldn’t say I was surprised. I didn’t know if I would fit in at the SEC level. I just went out there and did what I know how to do. Everything worked out,” he said. “I’m happy I put up a (ERA) number like that. For a kid who throws 83 miles per hour, you need to make a statement like that because if you don’t, your opportunities are limited.”

Although he points out that he only pitched 4 2/3 innings against SEC competition, Reagan hopes to earn more opportunities in conference games next season by having a strong season with the Columbia Blowfish in the Coastal Plain League. He’s off to a good start.

In three starts, he has allowed just five runs in 21 innings for a 2.14 ERA as opponents have managed to hit just .173 against him. He picked up his first win last week against Gastonia with seven strong innings, and he’s optimistic about what a string of strong outings can mean for him. He’s convinced that improving the velocity on his fastball could push him into a role as a weekend or mid-week starter for the Gamecocks.

But he understands that he could settle in as a setup reliever if he doesn’t add a little more zip.

“It all depends how I throw here, in my eyes at least,” he said. “I would definitely rather start. That is every pitcher’s ultimate goal, but it’ll come in due time. I realize that. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

Blowfish manager Jonathan Johnson, a former first-round draft pick out of Florida State who pitched in the major leagues, likes what he has seen so far from Reagan. He expects even more as the summer progresses as his young pitcher knocks off the rust while getting comfortable as a starter again.

Johnson appreciates how Reagan spots his changeup and the command he has displayed of all his pitches from two arm angles.

“We’re excited about having him this summer. I think he’s going to grow as a pitcher, and he’s really going to help our ballclub,” Johnson said.

Reagan appreciates that he’s playing his summer season close to his Lexington home, where family and friends can watch him and he can stay connected to the USC program.

“I love it. There are a lot of places I could have been playing,” he said. “I lucked out playing here, 20 minutes from home and five minutes from Carolina Stadium where I can work out.”

He also wants to build on the confidence he first established at the collegiate level last season – “I didn’t want my confidence to waver because once your confidence goes, then everything goes out of whack” – as he prepares for a return to campus in August.

Reagan, who won games in relief against Presbyterian and College of Charleston as well as his only start against Stetson, also wants to see the Gamecocks bounce back from a season in which they were eliminated in the NCAA regionals, the fastest they’ve exited the tournament in five years.

He believes the incoming group can make a deeper postseason run.

“We have the talent and we have the guys,” he said. “We’re always going to have top-line talent at South Carolina. We just have to find a way to bring it all together and to mesh and to be compatible as a unit. That’s what we have to focus on next year. I’m excited to be at South Carolina, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

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