Clash of Conference USA First-Place Teams at The Pete This Weekend

Clash of Conference USA First-Place Teams at The Pete This Weekend

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - USM Press Release

None would accuse the Southern Miss baseball team of not taking care of business after winning 27 of its first 38 games this season.

But even the No. 19 Golden Eagles peek at schedules, and ever since the season's start, Southern Miss was aware of the potential grinder waiting in mid-April.

At Ole Miss. At UAB. At Tulane. Host Rice. Host Louisiana-Lafayette. At New Orleans. At Florida Atlantic.

"This is kind of the gauntlet of the schedule," said senior third baseman/left fielder Michael Gilbert. "We obviously knew that that was going to be a big stretch for us for winning the conference and for (Ratings Percentage Index) purposes.

"We didn't look ahead. We played the season out. But now, we're here, to that big stretch, and we definitely need to come up big in the next six, seven games. We're going up against the two best teams in (Conference USA) besides us (Rice and FAU), so we definitely do not want to disappoint."

Southern Miss (27-11) split four games last week, winning a midweek showdown at nationally ranked Ole Miss before dropping two of three at UAB. They started this week by dropping a decision at Tulane, but look to get back on track this weekend against the Owls.

The first conference series loss of the season left the Golden Eagles tied at 12-3 atop the conference standings with No. 13 Rice, just in time for the Owls' visit to Pete Taylor Park for this weekend's critical, three-game series.

"Not only is it a big conference weekend for both Rice and Southern Miss, but everybody in the conference knows that these are two perennial powers in the conference," said senior pitcher Nick Johnson. "It's going to be a fun weekend."

The series is part of 2016 Eagle Fest, which also features the annual Black and Gold Spring Football Game set for noon Saturday.

Southern Miss and Rice (24-11, 12-3) will play at 7 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

"It's going to bring people to Eagle Fest and the Southern Miss' campus that might not have come otherwise," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "Traditionally, the top two teams in our league over the past several years have been us and Rice. This weekend, in conference, we're both tied for first, so it's a big series for both clubs."