The numbers are in and Southern Miss baseball fans showed up in impressive fashion over the last two weeks.
The Golden Eagles are still stinging over the way the season came to an end Monday in the Hattiesburg Regional, but there's reason to be upbeat about the way the postseason played out in terms of attendance.
USM lost two games Monday to in-state rival Mississippi State in the title round of the Hattiesburg Regional at Pete Taylor Park, sending the Bulldogs to the Super Regional at LSU and leaving the Golden Eagles home for summer.
USM (50-16) finished the season with a program record for wins and rolled to a Conference USA regular season title. While the Eagles fell short of their first Super Regional since 2009, there’s no denying this year's squad was one of the most talented in program history. Players like Taylor Braley, Matt Wallner and Dylan Burdeaux all had seasons that gave fans good reason to show up at Pete Taylor Park.
For games through June 5, USM ranked 17th in the nation in average attendance – 3,171. That's a three-spot jump from a year ago when the Eagles averaged 3,029 fans for home games.
The only other school not from a power conference that ranked ahead of USM this season was Louisiana-Lafayette, which averaged 4,917 fans at newly-renovated Tigue Moore Field. The Cajuns ranked seventh in the nation in attendance.
With the start of the postseason, interest only increased in the Golden Eagles.
A total of 21,267 fans showed up over the course of five days at the C-USA baseball tournament at MGM Park in Biloxi.
Crowds for USM games at the C-USA tournament averaged around 4,000 and a C-USA tournament record crowd of 5,216 showed up to watch Rice top the Golden Eagles 5-4 in the title game.
The C-USA title contest ranked behind only the SEC and Big 12 in terms of attendance.
The SEC had its fourth-largest crowd for a title game with LSU and Arkansas playing before 13,128 in Hoover, Alabama.
In Oklahoma City, 8,923 showed up to watch Oklahoma State and Texas play for the Big 12 tournament championship.
The fourth best crowd at a conference title game this year was 4,772 in Louisville, Kentucky, for the ACC title contest, which featured Florida State and North Carolina.
Regional ranks high
With MSU, USM and South Alabama all taking part in the Hattiesburg Regional, it comes as no surprise that Hattiesburg stood out in attendance numbers last week.
The Hattiesburg Regional, which had to contend with rain for much of the weekend, ranked fourth in the nation in average attendance at 4,221. The Baton Rouge Regional ranked first at 10,480. The regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas, ranked second with an average of 9,672 and the Lubbock, Texas, Regional checked in at 4,732 to rank third.
The most surprising aspect of the regional attendance numbers is that USM ranked ahead of programs with large facilities like Clemson (4,071) and Florida State (3,077). The Gainesville, Florida, Regional averaged only 2,017 fans to rank 14th out of 16 regionals.
The regional hosted by Wake Forest ranked last with an average attendance of 1,500.
College baseball simply matters more in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi than it does in other parts of the nation. The best way to put this into perspective is to consider that LSU's average attendance last week is a larger number that the total attendance for the Stanford Regional, which drew 10,128 fans total.
1. Baton Rouge, La. — 10,480
2. Fayetteville, Ark. — 9,672
3. Lubbock, Texas — 4,732
4. Hattiesburg — 4,221
5. Clemson, S.C. — 4,071
6. Lexington, Ky. — 3,365
7. Fort Worth, Texas — 3,853
8. Houston — 3,390
9. Corvallis, Oregon — 3,343
10. Tallahassee, Florida — 3,077
11. Louisville, Ky. — 2,951
12. Chapel Hill, N.C. — 2,694
13. Long Beach, Calif. — 2,381
14. Gainesville, Fla. — 2,017
15. Stanford, Calif. — 1,688
16. Wake Forest — 1,500