HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - "It was a play that was executed to perfection," said Southern Miss head baseball coach Scott Berry. "I don't know if we ever did it that well in practice but we did it well that day to capture the Conference USA title here last year against a very good Rice team. What a finish. One that will rank in the top of my career for sure."
On that play Berry remembers, the four-man double-relay to seal the Eagles' 2016 Conference U-S-A Tournament win, all four of those men won't be back in a Southern Miss uniform this season.
"They're all gone," Berry said. "From Sandlin in center, to Dawson at short, to Lynch at first to Robinson behind the plate. That's the challenge. But I feel like we have the personnel of those that we've brought in and those that are now, it's their time to step up to meet that challenge.
Fifteen players in total the Golden Eagles will be missing in 2017. But with several key contributors returning, including 2016 first team all C-USA players Dylan Burdeaux and Kirk McCarty, coach Berry is confident the new USM lineup will be ready to roll on opening day February 17.
"Certainly, Dylan Burdeaux, he's a senior, he's been in our program and started for four years," Berry said. "I think on the pitching side it's Kirk McCarty, a lefty who's a junior for us, goes out and competes. Both those guys compete very well, they're highly competitive, they don't like to lose. I think in the way that they work at practice and how they play in a game will translate to the rest of the team."
While that unforgettable relay at Pete Taylor Park represents four gloves the Eagles will have to replace, the postseason appearance for the first time since 2011 illustrates where Southern Miss wants to be.
"Being absent for those four years certainly hurts," Berry said. "It hurts everybody in the program that works hard. We got back in it last year and now it's time to continue that consistency and get back in it again this year."