Southern Miss

Southern Miss baseball loses one of its top returning players to transfer

The Southern Miss baseball team has lost a player who was expected to be one of the key pieces to the 2020 squad.

Redshirt senior designated hitter/catcher Bryant Bowen has decided to transfer for his final year of eligibility, according to head coach Scott Berry.

Berry got word of his decision through a member of his staff.

“He has not called me, but that’s what I hear,” he said. “We talked at his exit meeting (and Bowen indicated he was returning). I just heard he’s not coming back. He has never called me.”

Bowen revealed Thursday evening in a tweet that he plans to transfer to South Carolina. As a graduate transfer, he will be immediately eligible to play for the Gamecocks.

Bowen, who worked primarily as a designated hitter this year, finished second on the team with a batting average of .341, hit 11 homers and knocked in 51 runs. His production at the plate was good enough to earn him Second-Team All-Conference USA honors.

The Shreveport, Louisiana, native was in position to take over as USM’s primary catcher in 2020 with starter Cole Donaldson finishing his eligibility, but he was also likely to get a look at first base in the fall.

With junior outfielder Matt Wallner drafted by the Minnesota Twins and senior first baseman Hunter Slater wrapping up his eligibility, there was a good chance that Bowen would have stepped into the third or fourth spot in the lineup in 2020. He finished the 2019 season in the five-hole behind Wallner.

Following Bowen’s departure, USM will have just two returning players who hit more than two home runs in 2019 — senior second baseman Matthew Guidry (8) and junior left fielder Gabe Montenegro (6).

Junior catcher Logan McGrew is set to transfer elsewhere after receiving a redshirt in 2019, meaning USM has no catchers returning from this year’s roster. Cody Milligan, who signed with USM as a catcher out of Cowley College in Kansas, has signed with the Atlanta Braves after being selected in the ninth round of the 2019 MLB Draft.

The Golden Eagles will have to look to a newcomer behind the plate and that may be Caleb Sterling, a Warren Central High School product who is regarded as a strong defensive catcher, or Brian Davis, who recently announced his verbal commitment to USM out of Gordon State College in Barnesville, Georgia.

Sterling hit .282 with three homers and 25 RBIs and had a fielding percentage of .962 during his senior season at WCHS.

Davis hit .355 with three homers and 22 RBIs as part of a Gordon State team that finished 50-9. Behind the plate, he had a .988 fielding percentage.

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Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.