28 May

gold rush

Southern Miss might not leave Biloxi today with a Conference USA Tournament championship, but win or lose against Rice, the Golden Eagles won’t leave feeling deflated. They’ve already packed a season’s worth of highlights into their run at MGM Park, likely cemented their bid for a regional host role and clearly established themselves as a team to watch once NCAA play begins. After suffering a shocking loss in the opening round of the tournament, USM stormed back to win four straight, including two drama-filled victories against Charlotte on Saturday, to reach the title game. The Eagles got great pitching when they needed it: See Kirk McCarty, Taylor Braley, Nick Sandlin (again and again and again). They got big hits when they needed them: See Matthew Guidry, Mason Irby, Bryant Bowen, Taylor Braley, Hunter Slater, Daniel Keating, Matt Wallner. Braley threw eight shutout innings with nine strikeouts on Friday, then hit a walk-off homer in the first game on Saturday – that’s the stuff of legend. Sandlin, who has 10 wins and seven saves out of the bullpen, got both W’s on Saturday, working 4 1/3 total innings to close out both games. At 48-13, USM already has set the school record for wins. These Eagles score 8.5 runs a game. They’ve got 84 homers, 76 steals. The pitching hasn’t been dominant (4.03 ERA), but it keeps them in games. “Right now, it’s all about attitude,” USM coach Scott Berry said in a school release after Saturday’s second game, a 10-8, come-from-behind job. The Eagles should be brimming with confidence as they move on. They’ll be a tough out in the NCAAs. P.S. The C-USA title game will be televised by CBS Sports Network at 1 p.m.

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