By STEVE KRAH
University of Notre Dame volunteer assistant Scott Wingo has experienced plenty of winning as a baseball player and coach.
Wingo graduated in 2007 from Mauldin High School, a program in Greenville, S.C., that produced a AAAA state champion in 2004 and saw Wingo earn AAAA All-State and South Carolina/North Carolina All-Star Select honors in 2007.
In four seasons at the University of South Carolina, the Gamecocks went a combined 189-76 with an NCAA regional appearance in 2008 and College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011, going a combined 11-1 in Omaha, Neb., with Ray Tanner as head coach.
“Coach Tanner and I had a special relationship,” says Wingo, 31. “He was going to do everything in his power to get you to believe in our system. We’re here to win. He didn’t like to lose.
“Losing wasn’t OK.”
Lefty swinger Wingo played in 254 games for South Carolina and hit .264 (189-of-717) with 24 home runs, six triples, 24 doubles, 96 runs batted in, 159 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
As a freshman in 2008, second baseman Wingo was in a starting infield with first baseman Justin Smoak, shortstop Reese Havens and third baseman James Darnell.
“Those were big, strong guys,” says Wingo, who was 5-foot-9 and about 145 pounds as a college frosh. “I knew I needed to work really hard in the weight room.
“Coach (Tanner) always kept you accountable,” says Wingo, who was 5-10 and 175 as a senior. “He always would keep me on track. He knew he could be tough on me.
“He knew I could take it.”
Wingo scored the title-winning run in 2010 against UCLA on an 11th-inning single from Whit Merrifield and was named CWS Outstanding Player in 2011 (the Gamecocks beat Florida for the championship).
“When I think about 2011, I can’t help but think about 2010,” says Wingo, who suffered a squad injury and went undrafted after his junior season. “I didn’t have that great of a tournament.
“My senior year is where I took off. I wanted to end my (college) career on a bang. I was locked in.
“We were ready for that (2011) tournament. We believed we were going to win it.
“We were the defending champions. You’re going to have to knock us out to take this from us.”
Tanner insisted his Gamecocks do things the right way.
“If you don’t have good grades, you’re not going to play,” says Wingo. “We had high-character guys like Jackie Bradley Jr., and Whit Merrifield. When your best players are good people it resonates with the entire team.
“We had a bunch of guys that would battle you. They were tough outs and played really good defense. On the mound, they were lights out. We typically never beat ourselves.”
Selected in the 11th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wingo played 261 games in the Dodgers system 2011-14.
He was with the short-season Ogden (Utah) Raptors when they went 41-35 and lost in the Pioneer League finals in 2011.
In 2012 and 2013, Wingo played for the Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Quakes, a franchise that combined for 133 wins and lost in the first round of the 2013 California League playoffs.
Among Wingo’s teammates in the Dodgers chain were future big leaguers Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Corey Seager, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, A.J. Ellis, Scott Van Slyke and Jerry Hairston.
Beginning his coaching career as a student assistant at South Carolina in 2015, Wingo saw the Gamecocks go 32-25.
In his two seasons on the North Greenville (S.C.) University staff (2016 and 2017), the Crusaders went a combined 73-31.
The NGU staff was led by head coach Landon Powell, who was the catcher for Dallas Braden’s perfect game with the Oakland Athletics in 2010. Assistants included former South Carolina and big league pitcher Jon Coutlangus and former College of Charleston player Tyler Jackson.
Wingo had earned a Retail Management degree at South Carolina and picked up a masters in Education at North Greenville
Wingo was an assistant for the Coastal Plain League’s Wilmington (N.C.) Sharks in the summer of 2015 and was the collegiate team’s manager in 2016 and 2017. Those three years, the Sharks went 92-70, including 6-6 in the playoffs.
Alec Bohm, who was a rookie with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020, played for the team in 2016 and won the home run derby at the CPL All-Star Game with Wingo pitching to him. Wingo says he hopes to do that same if Bohm ever gets invited to the MLB home run derby.
With Wingo assisted at Jacksonville (Fla.) University in 2018, the Dolphins went 40-21 under head coach Chris Hayes.
“He knows a lot about the game and is very passionate,” says Wingo of Hayes. “He connected with his players and knew how to push the right buttons.
“He really helps me.”
At Jacksonville is where Wingo learned how to tend to an infield.
With the blazing Florida sun baking the playing surface, it was not unusual to have to keep the hose going.
“Sometimes had to water that field three or four times a day,” says Wingo. “You’ve got to soak it.”
At Jacksonville, Rich Wallace was the recruiting coordinator and he moved to Notre Dame to take the same position.
Wingo was with the Irish in 2020 when they went 11-2 in a COVID-19-shortened season. It was the first spring under the Golden Dome for head coach Link Jarrett.
“It’s been awesome to work under Link,” says Wingo. “He’s got a great feel for the game and players.
“It’s a great opportunity to come coach at Notre Dame.”
Wing helps with infielders and hitters as well as outfielders.
“(With outfielders), the first step has got to be your best step,” says Wingo. “You go get the ball when it’s in the air. We call them ‘bird dogs.’
“There is no fear.”
Notre Dame concluded fall practice two weeks ago. Student-athletes are not due back on-campus until January.
Before they left, players went through exit interviews with the coaching staff to go over grades, how the fall went and areas where they can improve. Hitters talked about their swing and their approach.
They were given conditioning and performance drills to keep them right during the extended break.
“How we prepare for these next two months in vital,” says Wingo. “We’re excited about the spring.”
Wingo has been teaching lessons at the 1st Source Bank Performance Center at Four Winds Field, a facility in downtown South Bend where Mark Haley is the director.
There are camps most Saturday mornings with instruction in fielding, hitting and throwing.
“We’re breaking down the mechanics,” says Wingo. “Doing things the right way at this early age is vital. When strength and power comes in when they develop into great baseball players.
“We’re building brick by brick. Hopefully every week they get a little better. When they see progress their eyes light up and that smile, you can’t get it off their face.
“It’s pretty cool.”
Wingo is also leading practices twice a week for 14U South Bend Cubs travel team he will coach in the summer of 2021.
Scott is the son of Bill and Nancy Wingo. Bill Wingo is a member of the Clemson University Athletic Hall of Fame. He lettered in baseball and football for four years. He started on College World Series teams in 1976 and 1977, making just three errors at second base in ’77. He played briefly in the Atlanta Braves organization.