Southern Miss Golden Eagles defending C-USA crown a year later
Considering it once snowed in Hattiesburg on Southern Miss Baseball Media Day, this year’s first-ever virtual session wasn’t as weird as you might think, but it does shed some light, or snow, on just how different things are for the defending Conference champs, heading into a new look 2021 campaign, having played just 16 games in the more than 600 days.
Pitcher Hunter Stanley said, “I’ve never been more excited than I am for this season in my life.”
Outfielder Gabe Montenegro said, “I’ve been waiting for Opening Day since the season got canceled, and it’s been a real long year, and I’m just excited to just get back on the field and win as many games as we can.”
T-Minus 22 days until the Southern Miss baseball program gets to make the 2020 season that never was a thing of the past. “First couple months, I definitely put on a lot of weight. I was like I got really sad and then when we didn’t know what was going on, I like to eat a lot when I’m stressed.”
Cheeto’s and fried plantains, 10/10 recommended way to cope after losing the final 39 games of the college baseball season, and in come cases the final 39 games of a college baseball career. Pitcher Walker Powell said, “Man, it was tough. That definitely shook the locker room. Obviously, not only for our locker room, but every locker room in the country. A lot of guys were emotional. I was as well. I thought at the time, that was going to be my last year and it was going to end like that. And I was very close with Guidry, I came in with him.”
Now a sixth-year member of the Golden Eagles, Walker Powell is one senior taking advantage of his NCAA eligibility relief as opposed to Matthew Guidry who went out on his own terms with a different kind of senior night.
Stepping in as co-captains this year are Hunter Stanley and Will McGillis, leading the way for one of the most dangerous rosters top to bottom and the first expanded roster of the Scott Berry era. McGillis said, “It’s pretty funny, we were just talking about it that I think Walker’s freshman year here, the freshmen this year were in like eighth grade.”
Head Coach Scott Berry said, “We’re not the only ones I think that’s in this situation. I know everybody keeps saying, man, we’ve ought to be pretty good, and I think we should. But I think everybody else’s ought to be pretty good, too.”
Southern Miss is still the black and golden standard in Conference USA, having won a combined five regular season and tournament titles in the four seasons prior to last year’s rain check. “Still defending the conference championship is a goal of ours and certainly we don’t back off from. There are probably 11 other teams that wish that they could say, hey, we’ve got to defend this conference championship. Last year was a different year.”
Perhaps the biggest change for the year ahead, four game weekend series once league play rolls around. Well, I don’t think it’s a challenge for us at all. I think that honestly plays into our strength as a pitching staff. We’ve got five quality starters that we can interchange from Friday to Sunday that we feel good about, so I think that’s going to help us as a team.”
In the wake of a season that saw the Golden Eagles beat Ole Miss more times on video game simulation than on a real diamond, opening day can’t come soon enough. When it does, it’ll be past time to make up for lost time. “There has never and probably won’t be a year as good in college baseball as there is this year.”