Keeping Score

Southern Miss has to close strong to earn NCAA regional site

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Twitter: @Patrick_Magee

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDSouthern Miss second baseman Storme Cooper tries to run down a ground ball against Rice, Saturday, Apr. 23, 2016.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDSouthern Miss second baseman Storme Cooper tries to run down a ground ball against Rice, Saturday, Apr. 23, 2016.

The Southern Miss baseball team is coming off a bump in the road in its 2-1 series defeat at Florida Atlantic, but all is far from lost in its pursuit of hosting an NCAA regional.

The Golden Eagles (31-14, 15-6) began the week with an RPI ranking of No. 19 and are in a first-place tie with Rice (27-14, 15-6) in Conference USA. FAU (30-12, 14-7) also remains in the hunt in C-USA, one game out of first place.

As long as USM stays atop C-USA, the Eagles are going to get strong consideration to host a regional. The conference ranks in the top four in the nation in RPI, only trailing behind the SEC, ACC and Pac-12.

It appears unlikely that LSU will host a regional unless it finds a way to close strong in the final three weeks of the regular season. As long as the Tigers hover around .500 in the SEC, USM's chances of hosting increase with time.

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While it's easy to discount the idea of USM, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all hosting regionals this season, all have the necessary resumés to this point.

Southern Miss likely has to win its final three conference series to keep on track to host a regional. The Eagles host Western Kentucky this weekend and Louisiana Tech next week before traveling to Florida International to close out the regular season slate. The C-USA Tournament begins in Hattiesburg on May 25.

If USM can close out the regular season slate with at least an 8-2 mark over the last 10 games and make a run to the C-USA title game, the Eagles have a good shot at hosting their first regional since 2003.

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