Southern Miss

Wednesday's Ole Miss game crucial to Southern Miss' hopes of hosting NCAA regional

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD 
 Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry hopes for a strong close in Conference USA.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry hopes for a strong close in Conference USA. SUN HERALD

Mid-week games don't typically carry as much weight as weekend series, but Southern Miss is in need of a win when it travels to Ole Miss for a 6:30 p.m. game on Wednesday to boost the Eagles' chances of hosting an NCAA regional.

USM (25-8, 11-1) is in first place in Conference USA with a two-game lead on the two teams tied for second place, Rice and Florida Atlantic. The Eagles also have an RPI ranking of No. 15, keeping them in the regional discussion.

The one knock on USM to this point has been its inconsistent play in mid-week games, going 3-6 in those contests.

The Golden Eagles can begin to make up ground in that area in Oxford on Wednesday with freshman left-hander Stevie Powers (0-0, 2.51) getting the start on the mound for USM. Powers is likely USM's best option to make the mid-week start with Jake Winston becoming a bullpen mainstay following five weekend starts to begin the season and Mason Walley struggling in his last two outings.

Freshman right-hander James McArthur (4-0, 4.28) will start for Ole Miss.

USM is a combined 0-5 against its toughest mid-week competition so far - South Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tulane.

Those are losses that could haunt USM when the NCAA picks regional sites, but USM can negate the early damage in mid-week games remaining against Ole Miss, Tulane and UL-Lafayette.

The competition will get much tougher in Conference USA play for USM in the coming weeks.

After traveling to UAB this weekend, the C-USA regular season title will likely be decided when the Eagles play back-to-back series against Rice and FAU. Rice will travel to Hattiesburg next weekend and USM will go to FAU for a weekend series starting on April 29.

The Eagles are in good shape, but a two-game cushion can easily disappear in one weekend.

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