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Sept. 27, 2009

Columbia, S.C. – Former South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak (2006-07-08) earned Most Valuable Player honors at the 2009 International Baseball Federation (IBAF) World Cup as Team USA defended its title and earned a gold medal with a 10-6 victory over Cuba on Sunday afternoon in Nettuno, Italy. The Red, White & Blue finished 14-1 in the World Cup with Smoak setting a Team USA record with nine home runs.

This was Smoak’s second stint with USA Baseball after competing for the 2007 Collegiate National Team. Team USA won it second straight World Cup over Cuba. The U.S. defeated Cuba 6-3 in the 2007 final in Tawian. 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.

A MLB first round selection last year, Smoak has risen quickly in the Texas Rangers organization. Smoak finished 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.

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.