Southern Miss

USM baseball season was a head-scratcher

The Southern Miss baseball team came up one run short of the postseason Sunday when it fell 5-4 to Rice in the 11th inning of the Conference USA championship game.

While I'm sure the Golden Eagles were kicking themselves on the long bus ride back to Hattiesburg after missing out on several opportunities to win Sunday's game, there were many more mistakes made during the course of the regular season that prevented a postseason bid.

After a season-opening series sweep of Missouri, all seemed right for the Southern Miss baseball program. It turned out that series was little indication of what was to come. Following that 3-0 start, the Golden Eagles went on a 6-15 run.

Credit has to be given to coach Scott Berry and his players for overcoming that miserable 21-game stretch. A 10-game winning streak gave the USM faithful reason for hope, but the Eagles settled back into their inconsistent ways.

Losing a three-game home series to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville three weeks ago stands out as the most baffling moment of the season. The Golden Eagles took on a tough schedule this year, making it important to take down lesser opponents. The SIUE series was supposed to be a break from the C-USA schedule. Instead, it turned out to be a disaster.

Fans can point to a variety of reasons why this team never reached its full potential. And there is no denying that the 2013 Southern Miss baseball team had enough talent to make the postseason. However, USM's struggles this season mostly came down to one area of concern - hitting.

Late in April and in the month of May, the offense came around somewhat. However, the bats were mostly below average all season. Even during the team's 10-game winning streak, it won four games by scoring two runs or less.

USM (30-27) had a team batting average of .276 this year, its worst in at least the last 10 seasons.

Sophomore Connor Barron, who was once considered one of USM's top recruits, hit .198 and Michael Sterling plummeted to .137 after batting .288 as a freshman. Bradley Roney (.250) didn't hit up to his potential and injuries limited Jared Bales to a .175 batting average.

While Mason Robbins deserves no criticism for batting .317 with 40 RBIs, he hit just two home runs this year. Robbins has great power potential, and he still may provide big numbers. The long ball just didn't come easy for Robbins in 2013.

USM had four hitters who lived up to and exceeded their potential this season - Isaac Rodriguez (.348), Austin Roussel (.330), Dillon Day (.324) and Chase Fowler (.323).

It may be because of injuries or other issues, but USM had a large portion of its roster that simply didn't carry its weight in the batting order this year.

Even though the the season ended on a disappointing note, the Golden Eagles can take pride in the fact that they can add 2013 to the list of regular season Conference USA titles.

USM did its best work this season in Conference USA, going 15-9 to tie Rice atop the regular season standings and earn a share of the title.

While a C-USA title should be a point of pride, success at USM is now measured by earning regional bids and how deep you go into the postseason.

Make no mistake, nobody knows that better than Berry.