COLUMBIA – South Carolina begins its baseball season today, at 3 p.m. against Virginia Military Institute.

Five newcomers will either have or share starting roles to start the season: junior third baseman LB Dantzler, freshman catcher Grayson Greiner, freshman shortstop Joey Pankake, junior second baseman Chase Vergason and freshman left fielder Tanner English.

English spent much of winter workouts and spring scrimmages working on improving as a hitter, to take advantage of his speed.

English said hitting coach Chad Holbrook and head coach Ray Tanner “kind of worked with me on getting my swing a little bit shorter. I was a little bit long in the fall and my at-bats were kind of iffy, but we did a lot of work in the offseason. It seems like it’s starting to pay off a little bit. I feel a lot more comfortable.”

English said he previously had a longer swing because “in high school, for like two years, I was the three-hole hitter, so I was driving in the gaps and hitting home runs. It’s a whole new game with these bats and at this field. So just focusing more on a lead-off approach where I’m not trying to do too much with the ball. I’m just trying to get it in play. And that really helps out a lot.”

English, who is from Murrels Inlet, didn’t get the nod for the lead-off hitter spot, though Tanner considered him for it. That will go to junior center fielder Evan Marzilli.

But if English’s bat cooperates, he could be a major asset for the Gamecocks this season. He elected to come to college after being selected in the 13th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.