Dream season continues

By Andy Hess

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -- The dream season continues Sunday when Cinderella faces Goliath.

Southern Miss makes their first appearance in the College World Series against the top-seeded Texas Longhorns this weekend after an improbable run. The Golden Eagles have made their way to the regionals in each of the past seven years, but this will be there first trip to Omaha.

After losing to Rice in the Conference USA Tournament final, the at-large berth in the 64-team field seemed like wishful thinking for Southern Miss. But after the surprising bid announcement, the Golden Eagles began their tear through the postseason.

The road to Omaha started in Atlanta, where the Golden Eagles upset favorite Georgia Tech in the NCAA Regionals. A week later, the Golden Eagles punched their ticket to Nebraska with a come-from-behind win against Florida in the Gainesville Super Regionals to earn one of the eight spots in collegiate baseball's showcase event.

According to a recent poll conducted by The Hattiesburg American, it's already considered the greatest accomplishment in the school's history.

"This is quite an accomplishment for our school to go to Omaha. Seven straight regionals are nothing to sneeze at, but to take this step to Omaha will do wonders for our program," Southern Mississippi head coach Corky Palmer told The Hattiesburg American. 

Since entering the tournament, Southern Miss has been clicking on all cylinders, beating their opponents with a solid offense and suffocating defense. The Golden Eagles have turned 80 double plays this season -- more than the 307 teams that are playing division one ball in the NCAA and five more than the next highest team in the tournament -- which could hurt the Longhorns small-ball approach.

"We preach 'pitch to contact.' You have to do that to get double plays," Southern Miss head coach Corky Palmer explained. "We don't have a power pitching staff, but (pitching) coach (Scott) Berry does a great job of teaching sinking and breaking balls, and that's been key."

Shortstop Brian Dozier will suit up for the first time since breaking his collarbone on April 14. The senior from Fulton probably won't play, but still could be used as a pinch or designated hitter. Dozier was batting .394 in 35 starts before the injury snapped his streak of 131 consecutive starts.

"I've been hitting this past week-and-a-half," Dozier said in The Clarion Ledger. "I know how I feel and I know how my body is and everything feels like it was before I got hurt.

"It's all about timing and I don't think that's an issue. I think once you can hit, you can always hit. That's what Tony Gwynn used to say. I think everything is great. We'll see how I feel and I just can't wait to go to Omaha."

The Golden Eagles will have their hands full with the Longhorns. Texas will make their 34th appearance in the College World Series, having won six national championships -- only second to Southern California (12).

"We were one of the last teams in a regional, so there was no pressure on us," senior shortstop Brian Dozier said in The Hattiesburg American. "We're just having fun. We've always had a tradition of having fun and playing baseball the way it's supposed to. We're not trying to do things we're not capable of. I think anybody that can actually take that into consideration, you realize how fun baseball is. You just play like a little kid, and that's what we're doing."

Southern Mississippi (40-24) vs. Texas (46-14-1)
When: Sunday, June 14 
Where: Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha, Neb.
When: 6 p.m.
On air: ESPN2

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