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USC sets its sights on a southpaw

South Carolina has a bevy of right-handed pitchers committed in the 2014 class and a couple of southpaws are certainly needed. Left-hander Devin Smeltzer (Voorhees, N.J./Bishop Eustache) is a player the Gamecocks have their eye on.

Class of 2014 left-handed Devin Smeltzer

The recruiting process is just starting to get rolling for Smeltzer, who has seen schools’ interest in him skyrocket since the start of the fall season. Some of the top programs in the country are throwing their hat into the ring in an effort to get the New Jersey native to come south.

South Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, and Maryland are some of the top schools recruiting the 6-foot-2, 165-pounder but Coastal Carolina and Florida Gulf Coast are making a push as well.

“I’m looking for a place that I’m going to pitch and a place I’m going to win,” Smeltzer said. ”They’re warm baseball schools. Every school I’m considering is known for winning.”

Visits will be key for Smeltzer, who hasn’t gone on any trips just yet. He hopes to take some visits over the holiday break from school but he doesn’t have anything set up at this point.

“I need to get down and see some schools,” Smeltzer said. “I don’t really have a timeframe on when I want to make a decision. I’m going to try to take some visits towards the end of the break. If I can’t, hopefully I can get down before spring and see some schools.”

Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, and Maryland were three of the first schools to take notice but South Carolina came into the picture after seeing the left-hander at a tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. this fall.

“Interest started picking up down at the USA trials in Cary, N.C. ,” Smeltzer said. “It started there, then Fort Myers it started to gain some momentum and it really sparked up in Jupiter.”

Recruiting coordinator Sammy Esposito, Smeltzer said, is a big part of the reason that the Gamecocks are in the picture at this point. Even though he’s only a few months onto the job, Esposito has already made a big impression on the New Jersey native.

“Coach Esposito has been great,” Smeltzer said. “He answers all my questions from baseball to campus life down at South Carolina. He really broke down what he thinks is best for me.”

Of course, the sustained success of the program hasn’t hurt the Gamecocks’ chances.

“South Carolina goes to the College World Series every year,” Smeltzer said. “They have a beautiful baseball complex and their baseball players are taken care of very well.”

On the mound, Smeltzer throws his fastball in the mid- to upper-80s and has a big arsenal of offspeed pitches. He considers his changeup his best pitch but he can attack hitters in a variety of ways.

“I have good offspeed pitches and pound the zone,” Smeltzer said. “I can move the ball around pretty well. I top out about 88 with the fastball. I throw a slider, curve ball, changeup, and knuckleball.”

This season, Smeltzer says he is focused on getting his arm stronger and he wants to “take his command to the next level.”

Smeltzer is the No. 172 player in the country regardless of position and the No. 15 left-handed pitcher in the country as ranked by Perfect Game.

South Carolina has one left-handed pitcher, Alex Destino (Weaverville, N.C./North Buncombe), committed in the 2014 class.

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