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Former Mainland Regional baseball star Mike Neill now a hall-of-famer at Mt. Olive College

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GIUSEPPE UNGARO Managing Editor Mike Neill played baseball at Mount Olive College for just two seasons, but that’s all he needed to make a lasting impact. While at the Henderson, N.C., school, the former Mainland Regional High School standout became an All-America and was part of a foundation that future national championships were built upon. Now, 15 years later, he is a Hall of Famer. Neill was part of the 2013 Hall-of-Fame class in November along with several outstanding athletes, including Trojan teammate Scott McKee. “It’s probably the greatest achievement as an athlete,” he said. “It’s the biggest honor you can get at a college. I will be in there forever. I will be on a plaque in the school’s showcase forever. I’m also on another plaque as an All-America.” It was fitting that Neill and McKee were inducted together, as they gave the Trojans and their coach, Carl Lancaster, who still is at the helm of the program, one of the best duos in the country. Former Mainland baseball star Mike Neill poses with his Mount Olive College hall-of-fame plaque along with parents Mike Sr. and Liz, and sister Tricia Mandell. (Submitted photo) Former Mainland baseball star Mike Neill poses with his Mount Olive College hall-of-fame plaque along with parents Mike Sr. and Liz, and sister Tricia Mandell. (Submitted photo) Neill will go down as one of the best hitters the Trojans ever produced. At the time of his 1998 graduation, he had the best batting average for a season and for a career. He also was named an All-American as a senior. The outfielder batted .419 that season and ended his career with a .402 mark. he still is second on the all-time list for career batting average, just one point off the record. “I hit No. 3 all four years,” explained Neill, who played his first two seasons at Gloucester County College. “I took pride in batting third. You have to get on base, have a chance for RBIs and steal some bases.” Mt. Olive made a deep run in the region tournament, but never made it to national championships. However, he believes his squad helped the Trojans become one of the best baseball programs in NCAA Division II. “I think the teams prior to winning national titles got Mount Olive more recognition,” Neill said. “We had bleachers like the kids and now we have a grandstand. I take pride that every team got better and they ended up winning a national title.” The Trojans won the DII national championship in 2008, going 56-8 and beating Ouachita Baptist (Ill.) 6-2 in the title game. Neill credited McKee for protecting him in the lineup. McKee had All-American status before Neill and Neill said he believes he saw better pitching because of it. McKee and Lancaster weren’t the only influential people at his induction. His parents, Mike Sr. and Liz, as well as youngest sister, Tricia Mandell, were also in attendance. A pregnant Mandell made the eight-hour trip to the ceremony with Neill. Neill said he dedicated the speech to Tricia, who Neill said always supported him on and off the diamond. Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: gungaro@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu

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