South Carolina baseball team loaded with former Diamond Devils
Before they were Gamecocks, 10 members of the South Carolina baseball team playing in the College World Series were honing their skills together on a team based in Mount Pleasant.
The Diamond Devils, one of the top travel baseball programs in the country, have served as a pipeline of talent to USC since established by John Rhodes in 1993. Nearly 50 former Diamond Devils have played for the Gamecocks, and seven current Diamond Devils have already committed or signed with USC.
Former Diamond Devils who have had key roles in the Gamecocks’ success this season include Tanner English, Grayson Greiner, Colby Holmes, Evan Marzilli, Connor Bright and Joey Pankake.
This isn’t the first time ex-Diamond Devils have made up the heart of a South Carolina team. The Lowcountry’s Justin Smoak, Mike Cisco and Reese Havens — all currently playing professional ball — were teammates at USC from 2006-08.
Rhodes admits he’s been accused of steering his players to Columbia.
“All the time,” Rhodes said with a laugh. “We’ve been called the USC junior varsity.”
Said Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner: “John doesn’t have a College World Series ring, but he should have one.”
Tanner was joking, of course, but when Rhodes calls him about a player, the conversation is serious.
“When certain coaches around the state call me and say, ‘You need this player,’ I listen,” Tanner said. “When John Rhodes called me about Evan Marzilli, he told me he thought Marzilli would be a great fit for our program. And he was right. Not only is he a good baseball player, but he carries himself so well and is such a good example for our younger players.”
Marzilli played high school baseball in Rhode Island but knew about the Diamond Devils because his mother vacationed on Folly Beach. He felt playing for a program with a national reputation would give him a chance to play for an ACC or SEC team.
Rhodes, whose teams have won eight national championships, never expected his program to gain national attention.
“But we started to see that potential shortly after we started when we had success nationally early on,” Rhodes said. “It really became apparent when we were having success and guys who came from our program were having success at the next level.
“We’ve had Diamond Devils guys going (to USC) and being very successful since Drew Meyer and have had guys like (David) Marchbanks, (Steven) Tolleson, (Matt) Campbell, Havens, Smoak, Cisco, (Aaron) Rawl, who have great careers there. These guys have just added to and enhanced the progress both programs have enjoyed over the years.”
Gene Sapakoff contributed to this story