Omaha state of mind: USM Baseball taking ‘positive vibes’ into 2019

Last year, the Southern Miss baseball team capitalized on the home crowd advantage, capturing the Conference USA Tournament Championship at Biloxi’s MGM Park.

With the first pitch of the 2019 season just over three weeks away, the Golden Eagles are ready to defend their title with an Omaha state of mind.

Two Conference USA Tournament championships in the last three years and all of a sudden, regional dogpiles are starting to pile up for the Black and Gold. “Positive vibes is definitely here to stay and they’re coming in hot so I mean, watch out.”

After sweeping the league’s regular season title and tournament crown for the first time since 2003, those vibes were tested in the 2018 Fayetteville regional. The low point was a 10-2 loss to Arkansas in USM’s second to last game of the year.  Second baseman Matthew Guidry said, “All of our losses except for that one, we kind of beat ourselves. Coach Berry always talks about how we’re always playing against ourselves and for sure. Then that kind of made us kind of sit back and think okay well, we’re obviously not everything that we thought we were. There is a chance that we could get beat.”

Head Coach Scott Berry said, “I don’t want us to ride a roller coaster of emotion and energy level of who we’re playing in excitement. I want us to ride the roller coaster at the top all the time, and I want us to feel that energy it takes to win baseball games whoever it is that we’re playing.”

Southern Miss doesn’t have to go very far to find consistency. In fact, he wears number 32. A unanimous pre-season All-American, Matt Wallner, alongside Matthew Guidry, is a team captain that brings 35 career home runs into his junior season. Scary to think he still has another gear. “Again, I try and just kind of let stuff go and just go out there and play cause if I’m trying to hit .450 and 30 homers, 99 times out of 100 times it’s probably not going to happen. I’ve just got to go out there and play the way I know how to play and then I think good things will come. I’ll have my best season yet,” said Wallner.

Wallner is also slated to pitch in a more prominent role on a staff that returns a whopping 376 innings from 2018. Anchoring the bullpen this year is JC Keys, who can touch up to 94 on the gun. “You’ve just got to go out there and give it your all. All gas, no brakes. No brakes, no brakes. But you just have to let everything loose in that one inning and be able to come back the next day and even the next one,” said Keys.

Despite losing a national pitcher of the year in Nick Sandlin, this could be USM’s most complete roster in several years. With each passing season, the Eagles become further and further removed from their run to the 2009 College World Series to which Coach Berry says challenge accepted. “We know what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get back to Omaha, it’s been 10 years. It’s tough to get there, there’s 297 Division I programs that are all trying to be one of eight at the end of the year in the palace of college baseball. So that’s our goal, that’s what we’re working towards. But it starts February 15th.”

Southern Miss leads off its 2019 campaign at Pete Taylor Park with a three game series versus Purdue. First pitch for game one is set for Friday, February 15th at 4 p.m.

Categories: Local Sports, Sports

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