HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Southern Miss fell short of its ultimate goal to make it to the College World Series in Omaha, but it was still another historic year for the Golden Eagles.
USM compiled a 44-18 record and won a Conference USA regular season and tournament title in the same season for the first time since 2003.
"It was emotional to see this team end their chapter in Southern Miss history and see the seniors – and [juniors Nick] Sandlin and [Luke] Reynolds – move on in another area of their life," said USM head coach Scott Berry.
In addition to juniors Nick Sandlin and Luke Reynolds leaving for the MLB, Southern Miss said farewell to six seniors – LeeMarcus Boyd, Keller Bradford, Trent Driver, Mason Irby, Daniel Keating and Casey Maack.
Berry is tasked with replacing a group that helped lead USM to a school-record 94 wins over the last two seasons.
"Certainly, we are looking for a new Friday night [starting pitcher]," Berry said. "We had to replace that the last two years and once again we'll do it again. So, the guys that we lost with Sandlin and Luke Reynolds at third – once again another Conference player of the year. LeeMarcus Boyd, what he's given us at shortstop, he's been so valuable there. Mason Irby in the outfield, Daniel Keating in his role over four years. We're just going to have to have guys step up – guys that are in the program and guys that are coming into the program."
Who could be the next leader in the clubhouse to help take Southern Miss to a fourth straight NCAA Regional next year? Berry believes infielder Matt Guidry could be that guy.
The Oak Grove grad's .328 batting average was good for third on the team behind Reynolds and fellow sophomore Matt Wallner. Guidry stepped up in the Fayetteville Regional – batting .300 with 4 runs-batted-in and two home runs in three games.
"Well, I think it'll be Matt Guidry," Berry said. "I just think he is an absolute competitor, 24/7. You see it in practice, you see it in games. He really works hard. I think he makes people around him work hard. He brings other people's level up. When you're around him every day here you certainly have a great appreciation for what he brings and his passion for the game, and how good he wants to be and his desire to win. I think that's what makes him special. He hates to lose more than he likes to win. I think that driving force that he has in himself to be the best is what's going to lead everybody else that's around him."