HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi appears to have a date with history on the horizon.
Kirk McCarty turned in the fifth consecutive quality start by a Golden Eagle pitcher and Taylor Braley and Mason Irby drove in three runs each Saturday afternoon as No. 19 USM clinched its eighth Conference USA series of the season with a 9-4 victory over the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
By winning their ninth consecutive game, the Golden Eagles (39-12, 21-5 C-USA) have:
Posted their most regular-season wins since 2005;
Became just the sixth team in program history to win at least 39 games in the regular season, tying three others (1990, 1991, 2005) for the third-most regular-season wins;
Whittled their “magic number” to two to clinch an outright C-USA regular-season championship. Any combination of two USM victories and/or Old Dominion University losses over the final four C-USA regular-season games would give the Golden Eagles their only other outright title since 2003.
But first baseman Dylan Burdeaux, one of three Golden Eagle seniors to be honored before Saturday's game at Taylor Park, said he and his teammates just have tried to keep the black-and-gold wagon between the ditches and focus on what's directly in front of them.
"It's what I love about this team," said Burdeaux, who had three hits and scored twice Saturday. "We don't discuss (magic numbers) at all. We don't talk about (Ratings Percentage Index). We don't talk about standings in the conference.
"We just literally look day-to-day. We look for who's tomorrow's opponent is, and that's UAB. So, it's just another day to win a baseball game. Coach (Scott) Berry talks about it all the time, just go 1-0 the next day."
But while the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach has worked wonders, the Golden Eagles also realize what might be available down the road because of it.
"We have a bunch of new faces, but also guys who have been here and done this and can keep us focused," said Irby, who is hitting .355 in his first season after transferring from Jones County Junior College. "You take it one game at a time, but look, this next game, just to sweep this weekend, that's not the end goal.
"Our end goal is not just to win the conference regular season and win the conference tournament. But I mean, we're trying not to look too far into the future. We know there're a lot of goals in front us, enough to keep us grounded right now."
McCarty (8-2) gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits over six innings. He struck out seven and walked none.
Blazers starter Carson Jones (3-4) allowed five runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked none.
UAB (23-28, 8-18) got a double and two-run home run from shortstop Antonio Ralat, who drove in three of the Blazers' four runs.
USM outfielder Matt Wallner broke out of mini slump (1 of 14 over four games), going 3 of 4 with a double and a run batted in. Braley and Bryant Bowen had two hits apiece as the Golden Eagles cranked out 15 hits against four Blazers.
The Golden Eagles stranded 13 runners. In two games against UAB, USM has left 29 runners on base in 16 innings.
USM will be going for its fifth conference series sweep of the season at 1 p.m. Sunday in the finale of the best-of-three series.