Injury, sluggish finish won't slow Mack down
DeAngelo Mack shares the honor of being one of four players to start all 59 games for the South Carolina baseball team this season. But for Mack, the last few starts have been the most painful, especially from a physical side.
Of his 59 starts, 56 have been at an outfield position while the other three have been as a designated hitter. That move to a strictly batting only position is due in large part of shin splints Mack has developed over the course of the season. The junior says doctors told him a bruised arch in his right foot caused him to overcorrect and make the splints flair up. The pain in his legs dates all the way back to the Vanderbilt series at the beginning of May and has forced him into a limited role he is looking forward to shedding as the NCAA Regionals begin today.
"They're doing a little bit better. Getting better everyday I guess, so that's good," Mack said. "It doesn't really affect me hitting, just running. It's hard to start up and hard to stop. Once I get on my toes I can run a little bit, but it's still really painful. I like break to the left or right or come to a stop. It kind of sucks a little bit, but I guess I've got to play through it."
Mack's team leading .366 batting average is going to be counted on this weekend as the Gamecocks travel to Greenville, N.C. for the East Carolina Regional. USC opens the field with a 3 p.m. game against George Mason today.
While Mack is personally ready to get back out in the outfield, he is also ready to get the Gamecocks back on a winning track. After finishing May with just one loss in 11 games, Carolina had a disappointing 1-2 outing in the SEC Tournament for an early exit. Though winning a conference tournament crown would have been nice, Mack is focused on doing things right on a much bigger stage now.
"We had kind of a rough few games but the past two games that we lost we were in it at the end and had a chance to win it if we push the runs across even though we didn't play as well," Mack said. "I'm pretty excited about that. We're not going through a slump or anything. We won, I think, it's 10 or 11 out of our last 13."
The recent success is something Mack points to as a sign of maturity on a young Gamecock team. Though the lineup is dotted with numerous first-year players, he believes the youth-factor is out the window as USC makes its 10th straight regional appearance.
"We're definitely a lot better team than we were in the beginning of the year. We were trying to figure where we were and who we are, and I think we've figured that out here in the past couple of weeks of the season," Mack said. "Definitely we can be a dangerous postseason team. We definitely have the hitting to compete with anybody else and our pitching's come a long way."
A veteran of numerous postseason teams, Mack has already lent his advice to the new players on the squad on what it takes to be successful in a championship atmosphere. While the team will tell you they always bring the one game at a time approach to a ball park, Mack has made sure players know that the road to Omaha isn't as long and winding as it is made out to be.
"Just play hard. It's a lot easier to get to the World Series than you think. You win three games right off the bat and then you win another two and you're already there. It's not really as hard as most people think it would be," Mack said. "It's the start of a new season. We're in the postseason right now. Everything's clean, everybody's even."
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