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Aug. 27, 2009

Raleigh, N.C. – Former South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak (2006-07-08) is among 23 players selected to play for Team USA at the 2009 International Baseball Federation (IBAF) World Cup in Europe as announced by USA Baseball on Thursday afternoon. A MLB first round selection last year, Smoak has risen quickly in the Texas Rangers organization. Smoak is currently in Triple-A with the Oklahoma City Redhawks and is rated as the No. 4 best prospect in the Minor Leagues by Baseball America.

In his three-year career at Carolina, Smoak set school records for home runs (62), runs batted in (207), bases on balls (151) and total bases (485). He is fifth on the SEC career list for home runs and is of only seven players in SEC history to record 60 or more round trippers. Smoak twice earned Most Outstanding Player honors in the NCAA Regionals, receiving the distinction in 2007 in Columbia and in 2008 in Raleigh. He started every game at first base for three straight years with 194 consecutive starts on the corner. Smoak played on three NCAA Regional teams and twice made it to the NCAA Super Regional. He was also a consensus first-team All-America his junior year in 2008 after batting .383 (90-for-235) with 23 HR and 72 RBI.

This is Smoak’s second stint with USA Baseball. He played on the 2007 Collegiate National Team as well.

Team USA is the defending World Cup champion, having defeated Cuba, 6-3, in the 2007 final in Taiwan. It was the first World Cup title for the U.S. since 1974. Two former Gamecocks played for the U.S. in 2007, right-handed pitcher Lee Gronkiewicz (1999-2000-01) and first baseman Steve Pearce (2004-05). Pearce is currently in the Major Leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Twenty countries will begin IBAF World Cup competition in five groups of four teams, with the top two from each group advancing to the second round (the top-four third-place teams also advance). Once there, they will be joined by Italy and the Netherlands – the two hosts of Round 2 – to form a 16-team quarterfinal. The top-eight teams from the quarterfinals advance to the third round, which will be held exclusively in Italy, where they will be split into two pools and advance to the finals based on best pool-play record. The U.S. will kick off World Cup play on Sept. 10 in Regensburg, Germany in Pool E and will be joined by China, Germany and Venezuela. In addition to Regensburg, the World Cup will also feature first round pool play in Barcelona; Prague; Sundbyburg, Sweden; and Zagreb, Croatia.

Gamecock fans can catch Smoak and the World Cup Team as they will first gather in Cary, N.C. at the USA Baseball National Training Complex where the squad will train from Sept. 2-6. It will work out on Sept. 2 and square off against the Canadian World Cup Team Sept. 3-6.

South Carolina owns the longest current streak of NCAA Regional appearances among the 12 SEC schools with 10 straight trips to the tournament dating back to the 2000 season. In that span, Carolina has seven NCAA Super Regional appearances (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) and three trips to the College World Series (2002, 2003, 2004). South Carolina is one of only seven schools in the nation to make at least seven NCAA Super Regionals in the last 10 years and one of only eight schools in the country to have reached the NCAA Regionals every season in this decade. The program’s 10-year total record of 468-201 is the fourth highest win total among NCAA Division I schools.