Spots are running low in the 2013 class but a big need was filled recently when right-handed pitcher Canaan Cropper (Salisbury, Md./James Bennett) committed to South Carolina. Some of the biggest programs in the country were chasing the power arm but Cropper spurned other offers to become a Gamecock.
Class of 2013 RHP Canaan Cropper
Cropper’s decision primarily came down to South Carolina and North Carolina but schools like LSU, Virginia, N.C. State, and Maryland were also after the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder.
Cropper’s name first came on the radar last summer as he pitched in relief for the EvoShield Canes showcase team. The Gamecocks began to turn up the heat this summer, though, after pitching coach Jerry Meyers watched Cropper pitch in a tournament at Wake Forest.
With the U-17 World Wood Bat Association tournament in Marietta, Ga. right around the corner, the Gamecocks kept a close eye on Copper and brought him in for a visit immediately after the tournament’s conclusion.
“When I got on campus, I knew that South Carolina was going to be right for me with everything they have to offer as for as facilities and coaching staff,” Cropper said. “I really thought that South Carolina was going to be the place to call home the next few years. I can’t wait to play there. It was an awesome experience being on campus. I didn’t really get that at-home feeling anywhere else.”
Former head coach Ray Tanner scouted Cropper twice before moving into his new role as athletic director. Head coach Chad Holbrook has been by to see him numerous time and new assistant Sammy Esposito, as well as Meyers, have been there as well.
“We got to walk around with coach Meyers around the facility, which is unbelievable,” Cropper said. “I’ve visited a lot of other colleges and South Carolina definitely is a professional program compared to the other programs as far as facilities go. It blew me away. We walked around campus and got to see the dorms and student life, which was really cool.”
Meyers, who is entering his third season as South Carolina’s pitching coach, has already forged a strong relationship with Cropper. Meyers played the role of host on the unofficial visit, which led to Cropper’s commitment just a short time later.
“He seems like an awesome guy and I really like presence about him,” Cropper said. “I enjoyed walking around and enjoyed hanging out with him on campus. He’s a great guy and has a great background as a pitching coach. He seems like a great coach and I’m extremely excited and can’t think of a better guy to help me develop as a pitcher.”
“Coach Meyers liked me as far as my mound presence and how I carry myself,” Cropper said, referencing the Wake Forest outing. “My velocity on my fastball and other pitches that I have. I think my slider and changeup were on that game. He said he saw me as a guy they were interested in because of composure and mound presence.”
On the mound, Cropper sports a low-90s fastball and a slider that hovers around 80 miles per hour on the radar gun. That combination has worked well for South Carolina closers in recent years and that may be the future path for Cropper.
He could, however, also start. His junior season at James M. Bennett, Cropper was 9-0 with a 0.88 earned run average in 54 innings pitched. He had 98 strikeouts and 17 walks and was the winning pitcher in the 3A state championship game. His team was 22-0 and currently rides a 44-game winning streak.
“He’s not scared of anyone. He’s a competitor and wants the ball in big spots,” EvoShield Canes coach Jeff Petty said. “He’s got swing and miss stuff. Been up to 93 with a plus secondary pitch. He goes after hitters. He just a fierce competitor and won’t back down from anybody. There’s a lot of swinging and missing going on with those guys on the mound. He’s also got plus movement.”
While he is likely only to pitch at South Carolina, Cropper was also hitting .527 entering the playoff run and finished with a batting average north of .500.
Cropper was the second pitcher-only in the 2013 class when he committed back on July 12 joining right-hander Matt Vogel. Since then, South Carolina has added two other pitchers - right-handers Jackson Smith (Hartselle, Ala./Hartselle) and Wil Crowe (Pigeon Forge, Tenn./Pigeon Forge).
“I’m excited to get on campus. There’s nothing like SEC baseball,” Cropper said. “The guys I play with out of the south aren’t just great baseball players but great people. I look forward to playing with great players and in a great program. Right now, I’m living a dream and I’m on top of the world. I’m excited to be on the mound playing in the SEC and in a South Carolina uniform.”
Cropper, along with the rest of the 2013 class, will sign letters of intent on November 14. The Delmarva area has been good to the Gamecocks recently as outfielder Jamie Jarmon signed with South Carolina but then elected to ink a professional deal with Texas. Class of 2014 right-hander Junior Harding (Cambridge, Md./Cambridge-South Dorchester) committed to the Gamecocks earlier this week.
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