CHARLESTON, SC - The Citadel baseball family lost two members last weekend with the passing of former player Chance Smith and Hall of Fame coach Mack Erwin.
Smith, an outfielder for The Citadel baseball team from 2004-07, was killed early Saturday morning in a car accident that also left his wife, La-aia, in critical condition. Their infant daughter, Laina Madison, was not with them at the time of the accident.
Smith was returning home to McDonough, Ga., from Atlanta after celebrating his upcoming 27th birthday with his wife when the crash occurred. The 2003 graduate of Evans High School worked as an U.S. Army contractor and was scheduled to return to Afghanistan this week.
Many Citadel fans will remember his two home runs and four RBIs in an 11-10 victory over rival College of Charleston in 2006.
"He was a very inspirational player with tremendous enthusiasm for the game and for the Citadel," said Citadel head coach Fred Jordan. "He was a hard-nosed and athletic centerfielder. The important thing was, he graduated from The Citadel and was defending his country in the military. He's a very special person to me and to all of us."
Erwin, an honorary inductee into The Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993, guided the baseball program from 1957-60. He had an overall record of 62-30-1 in four seasons, including a 24-12-1 mark in the Southern Conference, and his winning percentage of .672 is the highest in the school's illustrious baseball history.
After going 25-19-1 his first two seasons, Erwin's Bulldogs went 19-5 in 1959 and followed that up with a record of 18-6 in 1960, winning the conference championship with an 8-2 league mark and earning The Citadel's first trip to NCAA postseason action with an appearance in the District III tournament. The 1960 squad finished the season ranked 17th in the nation – the highest for any Citadel athletic team up to then.
In addition to his work with the baseball team, Erwin spent the 1957-59 seasons as an assistant football coach under Eddie Teague. In his final season on the football staff, the Bulldogs went 8-2 and finished second in the Southern Conference with a 5-1 league mark.