Southern Miss

Southern Miss can make case to host NCAA regional in April

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Twitter: Patrick_Magee

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDTulane pitcher J.P. France watches as Southern Miss outfielder Chase Scott runs home with the Eagles' first run during the fourth inning of their game at MGM Park in Biloxi on Tuesday March 22, 2016.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDTulane pitcher J.P. France watches as Southern Miss outfielder Chase Scott runs home with the Eagles' first run during the fourth inning of their game at MGM Park in Biloxi on Tuesday March 22, 2016. SUN HERALD

Entering Tuesday night's game against Mississippi State in Pearl, the Southern Miss baseball team was still in search of respect.

The Golden Eagles stood at 19-6 and 5-1 in Conference USA play, but they are still on the outside when it comes to the national rankings. USM received votes in at least four of the polls this week, but failed to register in any of the six major rankings.

Likely the biggest obstacle for USM is it just doesn't have that many wins over nationally-respected teams to this point. USM is 5-3 against the RPI Top 50, but those wins come against New Orleans, Northwestern State and Michigan State – programs not exactly viewed as baseball powerhouses.

The problem for USM is that it hasn't been terribly consistent in mid-week contests. Losing on back-to-back nights to South Alabama is the best example.

If USM holds on to its RPI ranking of No. 13 and manages to win the conference, it will have a strong argument to make to host a regional in Hattiesburg.

USM will be a heavy favorite when it travels to Charlotte this weekend, but the real test begins next week.

Southern Miss can build its case to host a regional in April, starting with April 5 game against Ole Miss in Pearl. USM will go on to play four more important mid-week games in April against Ole Miss (in Oxford), Tulane, Louisiana-Lafayette and New Orleans.

The Eagles' biggest conference series also take place in April with a pair of crucial home series against Middle Tennessee and Rice. The trip to FAU on April 29-May 1 could very well decide the C-USA regular season title.

USM is in good shape for a postseason bid, but it can turn this season into a special one with a strong April.

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