Golden Eagles ready for trip to Ruston

Updated: May. 23, 2021 at 12:29 AM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Nineteen straight seasons of 30 or more wins does not happen by accident.

It’s the same ole Golden Eagles at Pete Taylor Park – sort of.

Gone are the monsters of midtown like Matt Wallner, blasting 20-plus home runs a year. The pitching staff has carried the load in 2021, leading the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.44).

The Southern Miss bats are catching up just in time for the Conference USA Tournament to begin Wednesday in Ruston, Louisiana.

“We were off to a slow start but if you look at most of the programs around the country, they were as well,” said USM head coach Scott Berry, in his 12th season. “Pitching was way ahead of hitting and now I think what you’re seeing over the course of the season, you’re starting to see hitters get a lot more reps and at-bats under their belt. Around the time that we started conference play, our offense really started to pick up.”

“Coach Berry always talks about getting older every day and we really took that to heart,” said sophomore infielder Danny Lynch. “At the beginning of the season we started off really slow, especially offensively. It was a lot of uncompetitive at-bats. We’ve grown a lot and just being a lot tougher at the plate.”

The Golden Eagles (35-17, 22-9 C-USA) have dominated the conference tournament in recent years – taking the crown three of the last four seasons.

However, 2021 brings a change of scenery. The tournament moves from the friendly confines of MGM Park in Biloxi to Louisiana Tech’s brand-new Pat Patterson Park.

A conference title this season comes with a little extra incentive. Three C-USA teams – Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Charlotte – were named among the NCAA’s 20 potential Regional host sites.

If USM wants any shot of playing some more baseball at Hill Denson Field, a deep run in Ruston goes a long way.

“It’s really important that all phases of your game show up,” Berry said. “At that point, as we love to say, hay’s in the barn. So, you have to go out and play. You’ve had enough time on the field to learn from your failures. Not that you’re not going to still make mistakes but hopefully those are going to be limited.”

Southern Miss enters the Conference USA Tournament as the No. 3 seed and will play No. 6 Western Kentucky on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

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