Southern Miss

NCAA awards regional site to Southern Miss baseball

Southern Miss players greet Matt Wallner (32) after he hit a solo home run against Rice during the fourth inning of their C-USA tournament championship game at MGM Park in Biloxi on Sunday.
Southern Miss players greet Matt Wallner (32) after he hit a solo home run against Rice during the fourth inning of their C-USA tournament championship game at MGM Park in Biloxi on Sunday. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

The Southern Miss baseball team will host an NCAA regional at Pete Taylor Park for the first time since 2003.

The Golden Eagles were awarded the Hattiesburg Regional in an announcement from the NCAA Sunday night. Competition in the regional will begin on Friday.

“If there was ever year, even better than we were in ’03, that we should be hosting, it is this year,” USM coach Scott Berry said on Sunday at MGM Park. “There’s no doubt in mind our resume is built where it’s supposed to be to be one of those 16 hosts.”

The rest of the 64-team field will be revealed at 11 a.m. on Monday during the NCAA selection show on ESPN2.

The other 15 schools awarded regionals Sunday were LSU, North Carolina, Clemson, Oregon State, Arkansas, TCU, Florida, Houston, Kentucky, Long Beach State, Louisville, Texas Tech, Stanford, Florida State and Wake Forest.

Southern Miss (48-14) established a single-season program record for victories this season and has even drawn discussion as potentially one of the eight national seeds. Those will also be announced during Monday’s selection show.

Sunday’s 5-4 loss to Rice in the Conference USA title game decreased USM’s chances of being a national seed, but did no damage to their chances of hosting a regional in Hattiesburg.

USM fans showed up in Biloxi in big numbers this week with a C-USA tournament record crowd of 5,216 on hand for Sunday’s title game.

“The fans were tremendous today and all week,” USM sophomore pitcher J.C. Keys said. “That’ll be big (to host a regional). There will be a lot of people out there.”

Southern Miss beat Charlotte 6-5 Saturday to stay alive in the C-USA tournament in Biloxi.

Mississippi State (36-24) will find out Monday where it’s headed while Ole Miss (32-25) anxiously sits on the bubble.

There’s a chance that either the Bulldogs or Rebels could wind up in Hattiesburg.

Another team in the region that has a good chance of being part of the Hattiesburg Regional is South Alabama, which won the Sun Belt Conference title game, 7-6, on Sunday in Statesboro, Ga. The Jaguars are 39-19.

This marks the first time that USM will be a No. 1 seed in a regional. The Golden Eagles served as the No. 2 squad in 2003 with Baylor receiving top seed. Baylor beat USM 3-2 in the title round to win the Hattiesburg Regional that year.

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