HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - For the past three or four seasons, Southern Miss baseball has relied on its power at the plate.
With the departures of Hunter Slater, Matt Wallner and Bryant Bowen last season, USM lost 67 home runs. The Golden Eagles return 19 homers in 2020 – 14 of those from the respective bats of preseason All-Conference USA selections Matt Guidry and Gabe Montenegro.
It changes the way coach 11th-year head coach Scott Berry views the Golden Eagles’ best path to success this season.
Southern Miss may lean more on the “small-ball” approach offensively while buckling down defensively. The Eagles committed 86 errors in 2019 and their .963 fielding percentage ranked 11th in the C-USA.
“The blueprint of this team is totally different than any team that we’ve had here for quite a while, in all honesty,” Berry said. “It’s got to be a different philosophy, it’s got to be a different mindset. We’ve really got to win on the mound and defensively. On-base percentage is going to be very crucial for us, cutting out strikeouts is going to be crucial for us. We’re going to have to be ultra-competitive this year offensively.”
“It’s really a fun style of baseball to play,” said sophomore infielder Will McGillis, a PCS grad. “I think it’s fun for the fans too to see action. These days in baseball, people don’t like seeing so many strikeouts so we’re going to put the ball in play this year.”
“I still think we got a few guys who can hit it out of the park but I feel like we’re going to have to play a little more small-ball,” said freshman outfielder Fisher Norris, a Seminary grad. “We got some more speed on the team so we’re going to have to bunt and hit-and-run and do a little bit of that stuff. There’s a lot of ways to score and I feel like we’ll find ways to score.”
USM held its fourth intrasquad scrimmage on Friday as February 14th’s season-opener against Murray State looms.
Berry did not confirm a starting lineup for opening day but mentioned specific players that could potentially take the field in two weeks:
- P – Gabe Shepard/Walker Powell
- C - Brian Davis
- 3B – Danny Lynch
- SS – Dustin Dickerson
- 2B – Matt Guidry
- 1B – Will McGillis
- RF – Fisher Norris
- CF – Hunter LeBlanc/Brant Blaylock
- LF – Gabe Montenegro