Southern Miss Baseball building on historic 2022 season
Last season, Southern Miss baseball ranked 13th in the entire country in home attendance out of more than 300 Division I programs.
That tends to happen when you keep raising the bar and breaking records and the Golden Eagles say they won’t stop until they finally make it back to Omaha.
“It’s one of those things, like, everybody talks about the adrenaline rush, like, that was like one of those highs that everybody chases.”
Right fielder Carson Paetow said, “Oh, I remember very vividly. I got hulk smashed in the face by Charlie Fischer and I missed out on all the cool pictures.”
A bloody nose and some spray-n-wash on the white Southern Miss threads is simply the cost of doing business following USM’s 8-7 win over LSU in the winner-take-all championship game of the Hattiesburg Regional, the program’s first-ever regional title at Pete Taylor Park. Third baseman Danny Lynch said, “We kind of feel like we’re in that upper echelon of college baseball teams now. That was kind of a big step for us last year to get over that hump. We’d been to a bunch of regionals in a row and we finally won one. Kind of a good confidence boost going into this year but it’s also, like you said, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to the next weekend.”
The Golden Eagles then hosting their first-ever Super Regional against in-state rival Ole Miss, who certainly made the most of its second chance as one of the last four in, ending the summer as the last team standing in Omaha after outscoring the black and gold 15-0 in a super sweep. “Little bit of both of validation and not necessarily like, oh, we got beat by the national championship team. That wasn’t what we were thinking. We were like, we were so close to winning it.”
“It was just really one bad weekend of baseball that we played, and obviously, they played great. They were the best team in the country at that point in the year. They were playing awesome baseball.”
Pitcher Tanner Hall said, “We use that as total motivation because I’m pretty sure our first lift this fall, Coach Mak mentioned to us that the last time the city of Hattiesburg saw us play, we didn’t score any runs. And that’s something that we don’t want to walk away and just let that happen, so we have so much more to prove.”
As the Conference USA Pitcher of the Year, Ferris Trophy Winner, and a Consensus All-American Tanner Hall leads the way for USM in 2022 and presumably again in 2023 as the returning ace of a staff that was second in the country in ERA, WHIP, and strikeout to walk ratio.
However, USM finished middle of the pack in C-USA in most hitting categories, an area that Head Coach Scott Berry addressed during the off-season by adding 18 newcomers, several of which could be impact bats to go along with 19 returning veterans. Catcher Blake Johnson said, “It feels like every year I get better at hitting, and I still hit ninth, so I guess it’s a good problem to have.”
Head Coach Scott Berry said, “There’s a pretty good balance between returners and new guys, whether they’re traditional guys out of high school or they’re junior college transfers or even a couple of portal guys that are graduate transfers, so I like the mix that we have. I certainly like what we return.”
Perhaps the biggest change for Southern Miss in 2023, adjusting to the new look Sun Belt conference schedule on top of the already challenging non-conference slate, featuring a three-game home series against Illinois in late February as well as four SEC games, two against defending champion Ole Miss, one against 2021 champion Mississippi State, and one against Alabama. “I’m trying to schedule that good opponent to help build that RPI. So certainly, I think this is going to be a schedule that if we do our part and put in the wins like we need to, I think this schedule speaks for itself and will take care of itself.”
Heading into the new year, Coach Berry now all alone atop the all-time USM chart for wins, having surpassed both Corky Palmer and Hill Denson, last season at one point, the Golden Eagles also ripped off 15 straight wins, vaulting them as high as number three in the country, both program bests.
Of course, USM’s first Super Regional appearance since its run to the College World Series in 2009, putting Southern Miss on a crash course to make even more history, starting in less than a month. “The vision that Hill Denson saw in 1986, everybody laughed at. What we are seeing today is what Hill saw in 1986, and I can’t stress that enough.”
“Not only for ourselves but as a program in general, we want to show that we can go to Omaha and we’re going to be able to compete with those guys there and we can compete with them at any point in the season and we would love to see them late in the season as well to send them home because that’s what we do.”