Smoak ready for World Series run

Smoak ready for World Series run

Justin Smoak could have let all the accolades he received last year go to his head. It would have been easy for the freshmen to get carried away with his own success.



But after a Super Regional loss to SEC rival Georgia, Smoak was left with a somewhat bitter taste in his mouth, and he is ready to come back and bring his team to even greater heights this season.

"Of course the expectations for this team are to get to Omaha. That's the thing to do is win a national title," Smoak said. "I've got expectations for myself, but the biggest thing is to get this team out here back to Omaha and hopefully get a championship."

After finishing USC's NCAA tournament run, Smoak joined the Cape Cod summer league, where he earned the honor of being the leagues MVP and the No.1 prospect for the future.

"It was alright," Smoak said of his summer stint in the Cape Cod league. "I had a great time up there, I had a great host family. I mean it was great, but its great to get back to Columbia."

Last season the freshmen did just about everything in his 66 starts as he batted a Carolina school record for a freshman .303 with 17 homeruns while earning Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball All-American. But those things aren't what he wants to be remembered for.

"The biggest thing I'd like to be remembered as is not just a baseball player but as a person too," Smoak said. "Basically a guy that's going to help lead a team to a national title. If they're going to see my name I want them to remember that he was part of the team that got to Omaha and won it."

His coach sees the rising star as just the type of player who can put his money where is mouth is.

"Is he that kind of a player? Yes," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "I mean if you had a whole team like that your chances would be a whole lot better. But baseball's a game and anything can happen."

Even with the hype, Tanner has noticed Smoak's willingness to learn from his mistakes and eagerness to put the team's success ahead of personal goals.

"He's been outstanding since he got here. His game has improved. He improved from the beginning of the season last year to the end of season," Tanner said. "He had a great summer in the Cape Cod league, I thought his fall was impressive coming back when there could have been a lull. He continues to elevate his game. He's about as good as you'll find in college baseball at his position."

When the season opens on Friday against Oklahoma, Smoak is ready to lead in whatever way he can - be it through his actions or words.

"We just want to get there February 9 and get after it," Smoak said.

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