Mack makes case for regional MVP
Raleigh Regional Notes
RALEIGH — South Carolina's DeAngelo Mack is making an unlikely case for Raleigh regional MVP.
Mack very narrowly made the tournament starting lineup as the left fielder, edging out Drew Crisp. But he's proving that coach Ray Tanner made the right move.
Mack had a double and solo homer in his first two at-bats against North Carolina State ace Clayton Shunick. In the early going, those were easily the hardest-hit balls off the hard-throwing right-hander who came in with a 2.12 ERA.
Mack walked his third time to the plate against Shunick.
On Friday against Charlotte, Mack hit a three-run home run with two outs in the first inning. Then, a half-inning later, he made a sensational diving catch in the right-center-field gap to prevent an extra-base hit for the Niners.
Mack flashed leather Saturday, too. He threw out Wolfpack left fielder Devon Cartwright at the plate to keep USC one run down in the seventh.
"He's been giving us a lift," Tanner said of Mack, a sophomore from Columbia. "He's giving us energy. He's had a good approach (at the plate). He's helped us stay in a position to win. I'm looking forward to seeing him more in the future."
New fielding philosophy
N.C. State figured out one way to slow down the red-hot Justin Smoak. The Wolfpack sent second baseman Dallas Poulk into shallow right-center field to help prevent Smoak from poking a ball into the outfield.
Sure enough, in the sixth inning, Smoak sent a sharply hit ball into right field that Poulk gobbled up and sent to first for the out.
Smoak reached base safely all six times he came to the plate Friday, including four hits. He singled in his first at-bat Saturday before grounding into a double play in the third.
USC right fielder Harley Lail's bruised right knee kept him out of the starting lineup Saturday night against the Wolfpack.
Lail had started all 60 games this season, one of only four Gamecocks to do that (Reese Havens, Justin Smoak and James Darnell).
Lail injured himself in the second inning Friday against Charlotte. The senior went hurtling toward a foul ball in the right-field corner and threw himself at the fence in foul ground.
He stumbled and injured the leg. Lail stayed in the game for that half-inning, but was then replaced by Crisp. Crisp got the start in right Saturday.
Another long one
If you thought Friday's 15-8 USC-Charlotte game was long and nutty, you hadn't seen anything yet.
Not compared to Saturday's 13-12 James Madison victory against Charlotte. The game, which started at 2 p.m., lasted 3 hours, 57 minutes. That's compared to the 3-hour, 25-minute marathon the Gamecocks and Niners played the day before.
Charlotte led 5-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth, but that's when everything went wild. James Madison seized control with a six-run sixth.
The Niners season ends at 43-16. The Dukes (39-18) will play today in an elimination game.
"We didn't expect to lose this game after the start we had," Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs said. "We just don't do well playing that kind of game. We're just not built for that. We're built more to keep things in control."
N.C. State starter Clayton Shunick's first five pitches were strikes. … USC starter Nick Godwin allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, Wolfpack second baseman Dallas Poulk. It came on an 0-2 count. Friday's starter, Sam Dyson, also allowed a homer on an 0-2 count.