Southern Miss

Red hot Southern Miss seeks key non-conference win vs. SLU in Biloxi

Southern Miss outfielder Hunter Slater slides into third base on April 18 at MGM Park in Biloxi. USM hosts Southeastern Louisiana at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday at MGM Park.
Southern Miss outfielder Hunter Slater slides into third base on April 18 at MGM Park in Biloxi. USM hosts Southeastern Louisiana at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday at MGM Park. amccoy@sunherald.com File

A week before the Southern Miss baseball team takes the field at MGM Park as the No. 1 seed in the Conference USA tournament, the Golden Eagles hope to get their second win of the season in Biloxi.

The Golden Eagles (40-12) will take on Southeastern Louisiana (34-16) at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at MGM Park.

Fresh off clinching the C-USA regular season title and riding a 10-game win streak, USM has a chance to pick up a key non-conference win against the Lions.

Southeastern Louisiana will likely be the best RPI team that USM will face over the next two weeks. The Lions are ranked at No. 27 after winning 11 of their last 12 games, including a series sweep of Central Arkansas this past weekend.

USM stands at No. 16 in this week’s official NCAA RPI rankings and is very much in the hunt to host its first NCAA regional since 2003. The Golden Eagles can further help their case by winning next week’s C-USA tournament, which is set for May 24-28 at MGM Park.

USM coach Scott Berry doesn’t recall having a team as tuned in as well as this group is with the regular season comes to a close.

“I think they’re pretty much on automatic pilot,” Berry said. “They have really stayed the course as a team and I give a lot credit to Dylan Burdeaux and Taylor Braley and Kirk McCarty and those guys that have been in the program. This has been a really fun and enjoyable team.”

Southeastern Louisiana is led by fourth-year head coach Matt Riser, who is a Picayune native and a former Pearl River Community College player. With a 20-10 conference mark, the Lions are tied for second in the Southland Conference with Houston Baptist. McNeese State is in first place with a 20-7 conference record.

“Coach Riser has done an outstanding job since he’s been there as head coach,” Berry said. “He and his staff have that team competing for a league championship year in and year out.”

Former Harrison Central star Derrick Mount will be the starting pitcher for SLU Tuesday. He is 1-1 with a 5.93 in five appearances this season.

Sophomore right-hander J.C. Keys will be the starting pitcher for USM. The former Oak Grove standout is 2-3 with a 6.32 ERA in 12 appearances, including seven starts.

Keys was in the weekend rotation to begin the Conference USA schedule, but he’s had some bumpy outings in his last few appearances.

The highlight of the season for Keys came on April 2 at Western Kentucky when he threw a complete-game, eight-inning one-hitter in a 13-1 victory. He gave up one run on one hit in eight innings, striking out seven and walking two.

If Keys rebounds with a nice outing against Southeastern, he could put himself in position to make a start in next week’s C-USA tournament in Biloxi.

USM will close out the regular season slate with a three-game series at Texas-San Antonio starting 6 p.m. Thursday.

Game plan

Who: Southern Miss vs. Southeastern Louisiana

When: 7:05 p.m., Tuesday

Where: MGM Park, Biloxi

Radio: WPMO-1580 AM

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