The Southern Miss baseball team will play its first game in Biloxi since the 1948 season Wednesday night.
The Golden Eagles will take on non-conference rival South Alabama at 7:05 p.m. at MGM Park in a game featuring two of college baseball's hotter teams to start the season.
USM was 7-0 headed into Tuesday night's game at South Alabama in Mobile after a three-game sweep of Northwestern State over the weekend.
USA entered the two-game mid-week series with a 6-1 record.
"We're obviously excited about playing in that ballpark with it being a year old," USM coach Scott Berry said. "It's another fine minor league venue, one of four we play in this spring."
The game will feature two teams that are playing with contrasting styles early in the season.
Southern Miss is batting .352 with 15 homers to rank in the top 10 in the nation in both categories.
South Alabama has just five homers this season with a .304 batting average.
While USM has easily handled the early competition, USA has managed to pull out four wins by two runs or less.
Southern Miss hasn't played in Biloxi since the 1948 season when it took on the Keesler Air Force Base team on the base. The Keesler squad won that game, 17-13.
USM has a trio of Coast players contributing early in the season: Sophomore outfielder Daniel Keating, junior shortstop Tracy Hadley and senior utility man Michael Gilbert.
Keating, a Gulfport product, has played a significant role early at the plate for Southern Miss.
The backup outfielder has fit in well as the designated hitter with a .429 batting average, one home run and six RBIs in 21 at-bats. He has also stolen 2 of 3 bases to tie with Dylan Burdeaux for the team's lead.
"He's a strong young man that has speed," Berry said. "When he gets on base, he has a chance to do some really good things with going from first to third and stealing bases. He's swinging it and getting on base and contributing."
Hadley, a Pascagoula native, started the first two games of the season at shortstop for USM and was batting .429 before a hip flexor injury took him off the field.
Berry said Monday that Hadley is taking part in some workouts, but has yet to be cleared to play.
Gilbert, a former Harrison Central and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, has made a triumphant return to the team this season, appearing in five games as mostly a pinch hitter.
He sat out last year following a scary injury during workouts in October of 2014.
Gilbert was taking part in a cross-fit drill that involved three players carrying a log. One of the teammates carrying the log lost his footing and the log came down on Gilbert's head.
Gilbert was badly injured in the accident, but he managed to recover.
His return to the baseball field appeared to be delayed again when he suffered a knee injury in August.
"It's been an inspiration for everybody," Berry said. "First of all, just that he has his quality of life back. That's the most important thing. Baseball was certainly way down the line. For him to have total recovery of everything is great. It was unfortunate with him blowing his knee out in August. He's put in a lot of hard work to get where he has the ability to contribute to us in whatever role we've asked of him."
Sophomore third baseman Taylor Braley is an emerging star for the Golden Eagles, batting .480 with five homers and 12 RBIs to rank among the nation's top hitters early in the season.
USM senior first baseman Tim Lynch has also hit the ball well with a .400 batting average, three homers and nine RBIs.
Sophomore infielder Drew LaBounty has been South Alabama's top man at the plate, batting .450 with a homer and 12 RBIs.
Neither team was ready Tuesday to announce its starting pitcher for Wednesday's game.
There's a chance USM will face South Alabama's Ryne Long, a senior right-hander who played at East Central and MGCCC. He has yet to pitch this season, but was 2-3 with a 3.67 ERA in 41.2 innings last year.
Long isn't the only Coast native on the South Alabama team. Speedy freshman Dylan Hardy, a D'Iberville product, is a backup outfielder for the Jaguars. He has appeared in four games and is 1-for-2 at the plate with a double, run scored and a stolen base.
Southern Miss and South Alabama are both set to host one more game at MGM Park this season.
USM will play Tulane on March 22 and South Alabama will take on Nicholls State on March 30.
College baseball's future at MGM
Tim Bennett, owner of Overtime Sports and minority owner of the Biloxi Shuckers, arranged this year's seven-game series of college games at MGM Park.
Bennett also helped attract the Conference USA baseball tournament to MGM Park for at least two years starting in 2017.
He said this week that it's important that USM fans show up Wednesday to help bolster the chances of the C-USA Tournament making Biloxi its home for the long term.
"We really need them to be there," Bennett said. "We've got to show Conference USA that we can support the tournament coming up here next year. All eyes will be on these games to see what kind of support we get this year. We need a really good showing."
D'Iberville High School will play Biloxi High School at 7 p.m. on Thursday at MGM Park. MGCCC will host Baton Rogue Community College in a 1 p.m. doubleheader at MGM Park on Saturday.