The Southern Miss baseball team is on its way to finishing off one of the best regular seasons in program history, putting these Golden Eagles in rare company.
This year's squad appears set to hit the 40-win mark for just the 10th time in school history.
Entering Saturday afternoon's game against UAB, the Golden Eagles stood at 38-12 overall, four wins shy of setting a new program mark for most regular season victories with six games remaining.
The 2003 squad holds the regular season record of 41. That team finished 47-16, won the Conference USA tournament and became the first and only team in program history to host an NCAA regional.
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If this year's squad closes out the C-USA regular season title and wins the C-USA tournament in Biloxi on May 24-28, it also seems destined to earn the right to host an NCAA regional. Even if it comes up shy of a tournament title, it will have a good case to make to the selection committee to host a regional.
When considering the best teams in USM history, fans often look back to the 2003 team and also the 2009 squad that achieved the school's first College World Series bid – both coached by Corky Palmer.
The 2004 team that finished 45-19 also shouldn't be overlooked in this discussion, but there was no C-USA title or deep postseason run that season.
If the Golden Eagles make a strong close to the 2017 campaign, they too can be considered among the best teams in school history.
What makes this year's team unique?
The Golden Eagles' weekend rotation of Colt Smith, Kirk McCarty and Taylor Braley is the best in Conference USA and it's hard to believe that there's been a deeper team in USM history when it comes to position players.
You can make a case that USM could win five C-USA individual honors:
▪ Player of the Year: Dylan Burdeaux.
▪ Pitcher of the Year: McCarty.
▪ Freshman of the Year: Matt Wallner.
▪ Newcomer of the Year: Mason Irby.
▪ Coach of the Year: Berry.
What fans may ultimately realize when they look back on this squad is the quality of the lineup, one through nine.
Has there been a better lineup in program history?
Palmer can point back to his 2003 and 2004 squads as teams that put up incredible numbers at the plate.
Jeff Cook and Clint King both tied the program record for home runs in a season with 23 in 2003 as the Eagles slugged their way through the conference. As a team, the Eagles batted .319.
In 2004, the team batted .316 behind a red-hot Jarrett Hoffpauir, who knocked in a single-season school record 92 RBIs. He and Matt Shepherd both pounded out 27 doubles that season, tied for second-best in school history.
The 2009 team that reached the CWS also had a formidable lineup, but it also had to overcome injuries and never truly got going until the latter stages of the season. B.A. Vollmuth hit six of his eight homers in the postseason that year.
Vollmuth, a Biloxi native, led USM to a team batting average of .324 in 2010, setting a new program record. He batted .386 with 20 homers and 76 RBIs that season.
While those numbers stand out, you also have to take into account that they came before the implementation of a less lively bat for college baseball in 2011.
USM had a team batting average of .311 entering Saturday's game, an improvement on last year's impressive clip of .305.
USM has hit the .300 mark 14 times in program history with 2016 being the first instance since 2011.
What makes this year's lineup so tough is there is no easy out.
The Southern Miss NINE-HOLE HITTER Lee Marcus Boyd has 39 RBIs this season, good enough to rank in the top 20 in the conference. He is batting a solid .291 with 17 doubles and 36 runs scored.
USM's leadoff hitter, Burdeaux, leads the conference with 60 RBIs, an incredible amount for someone working out of the No. 1 spot.
Burdeaux's numbers make him the likely favorite to become the C-USA Hitter of the Year. He is batting .349 with nine homers, 52 runs scored and has stolen 15 bases in 17 tries.
In the No. 2 hole, Irby is batting .357 with 33 RBIs and 47 runs scored.
Hunter Slater's power numbers haven't been that great this season (three homers and six doubles), but he's hit .304 while mostly working as the No. 3 man in the order.
Taylor Braley has been outstanding in the cleanup spot or three-hole, hitting 11 homers, 44 RBIs.
Braley receives plenty of protection from Wallner, an outfielder/pitcher who is batting .324 with 15 homers (a USM freshman record) and 48 RBIs. His .659 slugging percentage ranks third in C-USA.
Berry has shuffled his lineup all season thanks to a deep bench. Matthew Guidry has received most of the playing time at second base recently and he has responded with a team-leading batting average of .379, two homers and 19 RBIs.
Junior outfielder/designated hitter Daniel Keating, a Gulfport native, has hit well in his chances, batting .271 with eight homers, 23 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Jake Viane has also been strong lately in the designated hitter role as well, batting .367 with a pair of homers.
Cole Donaldson (.283) and Bryant Bowen (.294) have been a solid platoon at catcher.
No matter who is in the lineup this season, it seems Berry can't go wrong.
When: May 24-28
Where: MGM Park, Biloxi
TV: ESPN3, CBS Sports Network
Tickets: MGMParkBiloxi.com or (877) 344-2174