BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Back in 1997 British R&B artist Mark Morrison delivered his first and only big US hit, "Return of the Mack." Likewise, "one hit" seems to be all opponents are getting off of LSU junior pitcher Brittany Mack these days. By the way, she's very familiar with Morrison's tune.
"That was one of my pitching songs last year," Mack laughs. "My teammates said I had to have it. It wasn't as pumped up as I thought it would be. Still, it had my name in it, and it was cool."
Not that she ever went anywhere, but Mack, indeed, has returned better than ever.
"I definitely love the lyrics now!" she chuckles, flashing her pearly whites ear to ear.
And this season she's been no one-hit wonder. In fact because of Mack, LSU recently won a game with NO hits. She's a huge reason why veteran head coach Yvette Girouard's Lady Tiger team has risen from dead. After an 0-6 SEC start that included losses of 8-1 and 5-0 at home to Florida and before being absolutely crushed at Georgia 8-0 and 12-0 (both called early after 5 innings), LSU has roared back to win 11 straight games. When #1 Alabama rolled into Baton Rouge with a 37-2 overall record and a 12-1 mark in conference play last weekend, few could imagine what would transpire. Not only did the Lady Tigers win the series; they swept Bama clean out of town. While Anissa Young provided the Hollywood-script, walk-off, game-winning home runs in extra-inning affairs both Friday and Saturday night, it was hard to argue Mack was the driving force of the weekend. But when the Lady Tiger bats remained silent for long stretches of time, it was Mack who held Alabama to one measly run in 21 innings of work while striking out 23 batters. And while softball pitchers can last much, much longer than baseball pitchers because of the natural throwing motion, Mack's 14 innings of work during Friday's 2-1 LSU triumph is hardly a small feat.
"It definitely gets to you because you've pitched two whole games," Mack says. "Your speed begins to drop some; and the batters have seen you six times. You have to be certain not to be careless and take anything for granted. Because one swing of the bat can lose the game for you."
Brittany Mack is not Britni Sneed. But with a year and half left, she can put the roller coaster outings and injuries behind her for good. She can cement her place amongst the greats in LSU softball history. The two times LSU reached the College World Series under Girouard (2001 & 2004), LSU had workhorse hurler in the circle with Sneed and then Kristin Schmidt. Mack wants to prove she can be the next great one.
"I'm very hopeful," she adds. "I've had a lot of people tell me what a great job I've been doing these last few weeks. That gives me a lot of confidence."
Girouard has likewise never doubted her ability.
"I've said this from the moment we got her," Girouard says. "If she can throw strikes, stay ahead in the count and stay healthy, she's got some of the best movement I've ever seen on any staff. She's got off-speed movement that drives big hitting teams absolutely berserk."
But the infant born at ten pounds and nicknamed "The Big Mack Baby" must continue to mature. The euphoria of the Alabama sweep is over. #6 Tennessee rolls into town this weekend and the Lady Vols are just as dangerous as the Crimson Tide. Perhaps more so.
"This is a whole another monster," Girouard warns. "They've got big, strong athletic slappers. They've given us fits the past few years."
But this LSU team is confident. Maybe the Hall Of Fame coach will get her proper send off after all.