2017 has been the best regular-season of baseball in the history of the 11th-ranked University of Southern Mississippi program, with the Golden Eagles winning a record 44 regular-season games and capturing the outright league championship.
Arguably, it’s been an even better past few weeks for senior first baseman Dylan Burdeaux.
Recently named a Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist and Conference USA’s final regular-season Hitter of the Week, Burdeaux became the first Golden Eagle honored as the conference’s best player.
Burdeaux was among five Golden Eagles announced Tuesday as first-team All-C-USA selections, and one of four Southern Miss players or coaches honored with the league’s individual awards.
Burdeaux, a two-time first-team selection, was named 2017 Player of the Year, while outfielder Matt Wallner was honored as C-USA’s 2017 Freshman of the Year.
Scott Berry was named Keith LeClair Coach of the Year, while Southern Miss hitting coach Chad Caillet was honored as C-USA’s Assistant Coach of the Year.
Wallner became the second Southern Miss freshman to earn the honor, joining Mason Robbins, who was named in 2012. Berry won the Coach of the Year honor for the second time, pairing it with the distinction in 2011.
Caillet became the second Golden Eagle assistant to be honored, joining pitching coach Michael Federico, who was named in 2015.
Burdeaux was joined on the All-C-USA first team by junior starting pitcher Kirk McCarty and junior starting/relief pitcher Colt Smith, junior third baseman/pitcher Taylor Braley and sophomore relief pitcher Nick Sandlin.
It was the second consecutive season that Southern Miss led C-USA with five first-team selections, and just the third time the program has had that many selected in a season. Five Golden Eagles were named first team in 2011.
Wallner, who was named 20017 C-USA All-Freshman as well, joined junior outfielder Mason Irby on the All-C-USA second team. The seven all-conference selections topped last year’s six and were the most from one C-USA team for second consecutive season.
Burdeaux, who leads Division I with 97 hits, topped C-USA in RBIs (66), total bases (152) and steals (19). He ranks second in the league in doubles (22) and runs (61). He is hitting .406 in C-USA play, .372 overall and takes an 11-game hitting streak into this week’s C-USA baseball tournament at MGM Park in Biloxi.
McCarty joined Burdeaux on the first team for a second consecutive season after going 9-2 with a 2.99 ERA with a team-best 90 strikeouts.
Braley, who was named as utility player, hit .333 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. As a starting pitcher, he went 5-2 with a 3.69 ERA.
Sandlin, a second-team All-C-USA and All-Freshman selection in 2016, went 8-1 with six saves and a 2.06 ERA. He struck out 64 in 43 2/3 innings.
Smith, a transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College, spent the majority of the season coming out of the bullpen before taking over weekend starter duties. He went 6-0 with a 2.61 ERA.
Wallner, who became just the second Golden Eagle to be invited to attend the USA Baseball Collegiate Training Camp, hit .344 with 55 RBIs and 17 home runs, the latter two both school records for a freshman. His.466 on-base percentage and .680 slugging percentage ranked second in Conference USA.
Irby, a transfer from Jones County Junior College, hit .339 with 38 RBIs in his first season as a Golden Eagle.
Berry guided USM to a 44-12 overall mark in the regular season, best ever in program history. The Golden Eagles’ 25-5 record in C-USA play tied the league mark for most wins in a season. Southern Miss will ride a school-record 14-game winning streak into the C-USA tournament, including 12 straight wins against conference competition.
Caillet has helped mold the Golden Eagles into the league’s best-hitting club. Southern Miss has scored 10 runs or more in 22 games, and seven players with at least 75 at-bats are hitting .312 or better. All 14 position players who have come to the plate at least once this season have hit a home run.
Louisiana Tech University pitcher Nate Harris was named C-USA Pitcher of the Year, while Old Dominion University second baseman was honored as Newcomer of the Year. ODU shortstop Zach Rutherford was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Top-seeded Southern Miss (44-12) will open C-USA Tournament play at 4 p.m. Wednesday, taking on eighth-seeded University of Texas-San Antonio (28-26). The Golden Eagles swept a three-game series from the Roadrunners this past weekend by a combined score of 39-13.