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Mack finds his groove in the No. 6 spot

RALEIGH — DeAngelo Mack is starting to settle in as the sixth batter in Ray Tanner’s batting order.

After being moved in-and-out of the Gamecocks’ starting lineup and up-and-down the batting order throughout the regular season, Mack has occupied the No. 6 spot in four of USC’s five postseason games. And he has made his presence felt.

Mack has showed off his offensive ability in the Raleigh Regional, hitting home runs in each of USC’s first two games. In Saturday’s 5-4 loss to top-seeded N.C. State, Mack reached safely in each of his four at-bats and scored half of USC’s runs.

“He’s been giving us a lift since he was inserted into the lineup,” Tanner said. “He’s brought some energy and performance down at the bottom of the order.”

After roping a double in his first at-bat and hitting a home run in his second, the Wolfpack opted to avoid the hot hitter, pitching around him and eventually walking him in his final two at-bats.

“I knew (N.C. State pitcher) Clayton Shunick had a good splitter and I wanted to see one up in the zone. and I got it, so I put a good swing on it,” Mack said of his solo home run.

Mack didn’t wait long to get his bat going in Raleigh. The Airport High product hit a three-run, opposite-field home run in his first at-bat of the regional, starting USC’s flurry of runs in a 15-8 first-round victory over Charlotte.

The athletic left-hander has also held his own defensively in the regional. He followed up his diving catch against Charlotte with an impressive putout Saturday. Mack threw a strike from left field to home plate in the seventh inning to retire N.C. State’s speedy Devon Cartwright.

Mack, who did not start in two of USC’s final three regular season games, has started every one of the Gamecocks’ postseason games, including a productive outing in the SEC tournament.

“I don’t come to the ballpark any different,” Mack said of his starting role. “I come to play, and if I’m on the bench, I will sit and cheer my team on. If I’m in the game, I’m going to do all I can do to help the team win.”

The redshirt sophomore has recorded a hit in each of his past four games. The last time he did that was about a month ago, when he had seven hits in a four-game stretch.

Occupying the sixth spot in the Gamecocks’ order is no easy task. USC’s trio of Justin Smoak, James Darnell and Phil Disher command the middle of the Gamecocks’ order and they have combined for 59 of USC’s 106 home runs.

Protecting that kind of production is difficult, but it’s something Mack has done very well in Raleigh. Tanner hopes it will continue.

“He’s helped us get into position to win,” Tanner says, “And I’m looking forward to having him out there in the future.