COLUMBIA - South Carolina first baseman Kyle Martin, the team's leading hitter last spring, announced Wednesday he will return for his senior season.
Martin was selected in the 20th round by the Los Angeles Angels during the MLB Draft last weekend. South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said Tuesday his first baseman was torn on whether to return for his senior season and finish his degree or begin his professional career.
"I love this university, I love this baseball program and I'm just not ready to leave all that this great place provides me," Martin said in a statement released Wednesday. "This was not an easy decision, and I appreciate the Angels drafting me. However, after talking it over with my family, Coach Holbrook and the staff and Coach Tanner, I've decided that I want to come back and help lead the 2015 team.
"I'm very excited to be a part of the Gamecock baseball program one more year and I'm anxious to get back on the field with my teammates. I am looking forward to another season at Carolina Stadium in front of the best fans in the country. It is also important for me to earn my degree and I'm grateful to the entire University community that is helping me get closer to achieving that goal."
Martin batted a team-high .336 with 38 RBIs, 35 runs, five home runs and 11 doubles. Along with catcher Grayson Greiner, he helped form the heart of South Carolina's batting order.
With Martin returning, the Gamecocks have a strong nucleus returning next season that includes three of their four starting infielders. South Carolina will also have leadoff hitter Marcus Mooney and second baseman Max Schrock.
Holbrook called Martin a "big piece of the puzzle" Tuesday. Along with his offensive production, he'll be a team leader, likely a captain.
"We are thrilled to have Kyle back for another year," Holbrook said in a statement released Wednesday. "As I stated Tuesday, I'm already anxious for August to get here and get ready for the 2015 season. Kyle is the best defensive first baseman in the country and one of our top hitters. To have his bat in the middle of the lineup one more season is huge, and we appreciate his desire and passion to want to don the garnet and black one more time. We are happy with where we are as a team as we head into the next season."