Southern Miss

Southern Miss baseball appears to be a lock to host NCAA regional

Southern Miss players and coaches watch as a first Louisiana Tech relief pitcher warms up during the third inning of their C-USA tournament game at MGM Park in Biloxi on Thursday. At center are Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry (40) and assistant coach Chad Caillet (9).
Southern Miss players and coaches watch as a first Louisiana Tech relief pitcher warms up during the third inning of their C-USA tournament game at MGM Park in Biloxi on Thursday. At center are Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry (40) and assistant coach Chad Caillet (9). jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

It seems very likely that Southern Miss will be playing baseball in Hattiesburg next week.

Regardless of the outcome of Friday night's Conference USA tournament elimination game against UTSA, the Golden Eagles appear a lock to host an NCAA regional.

I'm not alone in that opinion. For the last two weeks, many of the national writers who cover college baseball are in agreement.

If USM had been eliminated after just two games in the C-USA tournament, it may have opened a small window for the selection committee to deny the Golden Eagles the right to host a regional.

After losing 9-2 to UTSA in the tournament opener Wednesday, USM bounced back with a 5-2 win over No. 42 Louisiana Tech on Thursday to give the team one more crucial victory over a team in the RPI top 50.

USM entered Friday night's game against UTSA with an RPI ranking of No. 10 and a record of 45-13, a resume that should stand up to scrutiny.

The committee will have to consider that USM is 11-5 against the RPI 50, a better winning percentage than several squads in the RPI top 16. Those teams include No. 9 Stanford (10-8), No. 11 Clemson (9-13), No. 12 Wake Forest (10-9), No. 13 Florida State (12-16), No. 14 Arkansas (14-12) and No. 15 Arizona (14-16).

USM's road record of 17-5 also stands out as one of the best in the nation. Only No. 1 Oregon State (15-2) and No. 2 North Carolina (13-3) have fewer losses on the road this season.

The only slight knock against USM at the moment is its strength of schedule ranking of No. 66, but that's not a number that should hurt the team's case when it comes to the selection committee.

If USM beats UTSA Friday night, it will play at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday against Charlotte and need to beat the 49ers twice to advance to the Sunday's 1 p.m. title game. If the Golden Eagles lose, their tournament will end and they'll await postseason announcements.

Visit SunHerald.com to keep up with the latest from MGM Park.

USM relief pitcher Nick Sandlin gets out of a ninth-inning jam to get a save in University of Southern Mississippi’s 5-2 win over Louisiana Tech in an elimination game in the Conference USA baseball tournament at MGM park in Biloxi on Thursday.

National seed?

While earning one of the top eight national seeds seems unlikely, USM can be in the discussion if it pulls off a run to the C-USA tournament championship in Sunday's title game.

USM began the week likely competing with No. 7 Kentucky (39-19) and No. 9 Stanford (38-14) for eighth and final national seed. It will be difficult to overtake either team before the selection committee sits down to iron out the seeding this weekend.

The 16 regional sites will be announced at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday on Facebook and Twitter. The full NCAA field will be revealed on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. on Monday.

C-USA postseason update

Louisiana Tech's loss to USM on Thursday sent the Bulldogs (36-20) packing after just two games in Biloxi, likely ending the team's season. A solid RPI ranking will keep Tech in the postseason discussion, but a fifth-place finish in the C-USA regular season standings will likely too tough to overcome.

Of the six C-USA teams left standing in Biloxi, five began Friday in the RPI top 50 – No. 10 USM, No. 44 Old Dominion, No. 50 Rice, No. 58 Charlotte and No. 60 Florida Atlantic.

Old Dominion (37-20) appears to be in good shape for the postseason. All it has to do is point at its second-place finish in the C-USA standings and a series win at USM to gain the selection committee's attention.

Rice, Charlotte and FAU all had their work cut out for them entering Friday. Rice and Charlotte proved they are capable of making noise in the postseason after advancing to Saturday's semifinal round without a loss.

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