HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - With its dominating pitching performance over the weekend at the 24th annual Conference USA Baseball Tournament, the University of Southern Mississippi knew Sunday afternoon that it had secured an NCAA Regional spot.
The question was exactly where the Golden Eagles would be heading.
Laissez les bon temps rouler.
USM found out Monday morning, when the 64-team NCAA field was announced that it would be heading to Baton Rouge, La., and the four-team regional hosted by Louisiana State University.
“Honestly, I thought it was going to be LSU, (Mississippi) State or Ole Miss, but really, not knowing, because last year, they sent us to Arkansas, which was something different,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “But we travel so well, and they probably looked at that as a revenue source.”
LSU (37-24), State (46-13) and Ole Miss (37-24) were among six Southeastern Conference programs awarded regional sites.
USM wound up being sent southwest.
The third-seeded Golden Eagles (38-19) will meet second-seeded Arizona State University (37-17) at noon Friday to open the regional at Alex Bow Stadium. Top-seeded LSU (37-24) will take on fourth-seeded Stony Brook University (31-21).
The Golden Eagles, who are playing in their fourth consecutive NCAA Regional, will be making their 16th appearance in the NCAA baseball postseason. Three trips were to Baton Rouge regionals in 1990, 2004 and 2008.
USM has won at least one game in its previous three Baton Rouge, La., appearances, sporting an overall mark of 4-6. The Golden Eagles and Tigers did not meet in 1990's six-team regional. LSU handed USM a loss during the 2004 regional and eliminated the Golden Eagles with two losses in 2008.
USM never has played Stony Brook or ASU.
"Don't know much about them," USM junior right fielder Matt Wallner said. "I understand they can hit it pretty well, and definitely have two really big guys. But if they're in tournament, we know they're going to be good.
"I'm just excited to be going to Baton Rouge, La."
Arizona State definitely can bop.
The Sun Devils led Division I with 93 home runs, with Golden Spikes and Dick Howser semifinalsts, Hunter Bishop (23) and Spencer Torkelson (22), leading the way.
ASU, one of five Pacific-10 schools to make the field, averaged 8.2 runs per game.
"Great baseball program with great tradition," Berry said. "Obviously, they are good or they wouldn't be one the 64 still playing."
Stony Brook, who won its sixth America East Conference tournament title, has a bit of major history with LSU.
The teams met in a NCAA Super Regional in 2012, with the Seawolves winning the best-of-three series in three games to advance to the school's first and only College World Series.
LSU, which is hosting a regional for the 26th time, will have home-field advantage and three, big-time arms in Eric Walker, Landon Marceaux and Cole Henry.
But USM junior designated hitter/catcher Bryant Bowen, a Shreveport, La., native said he has a very good feeling heading into this weekend.
"Legitimately, we have a chance to come out of this regional," Bryant said. "I think this works out for us, from an offensive standpoint, our arms, the way the rotation is working.
“I’m super thrilled.”
Southern Miss will face off against Arizona State Friday to kick off the double-elimination regional. You can view the schedule below:
Friday, May 31
- Game 1 – 12 p.m. CT — No. 2 Arizona State vs. No. 3 Southern Miss (ESPNU)
- Game 2 – 6 p.m. CT — No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Stony Brook (ESPN3)
Saturday, June 1
- Game 3 – 12 p.m. CT — Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser
- Game 4 – 6 p.m. CT — Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner
Sunday, June 2
- Game 5 – 12 p.m. CT — Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Loser
- Game 6 – 6 p.m. CT — Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner
Monday, June 3
- Game 7 (If necessary) — Game 6 Winner vs. Game 6 Loser
Here’s a look at the full NCAA bracket: