Under The Radar: Southern MissUnder The Radar
Southern Mississippi seventh-year head coach Scott Berry can breathe a sigh of relief each time his Golden Eagles take the field from here on out.
Berry was tapped back in 2010 to take over for legendary head coach Corky Palmer, who had guided the program to their first College World Series appearance. With the new role as head coach of the Golden Eagles, the expectations were high for this program that might be mid-major in name, but very much major in expectation and operation.
Berry guided the Golden Eagles to a pair of NCAA postseason appearances to start his tenure, but was unable to get the ball rolling in the right direction since those campaigns, last reaching regional play in 2011, including falling just short of an at-large berth last season with a 36-18 overall record, respectable RPI and a decent 7-6 mark vs. RPI Top 50 teams.
Missing the postseason again caused some grumbling in Hattiesburg, Miss., and the consistent thought coming into 2016 was that the Golden Eagles needed to show some signs of stability. Well, they’ve done just that and even more, getting off to a roaring 26-8 start, along with an RPI of 12 and outstanding 14-7 mark vs. RPI Top 100 teams.
While this program headed into last year’s offseason with heartache, there are now much better vibes around the ballpark. The Conference USA regular season title runs through Hattiesburg with a home bout against Rice coming up next weekend, while with such a strong RPI and resume, a regional host is now what’s expected, with a national seed at least in the same area code if USM can storm through the rest of its regular season schedule and perform well in the conference tournament.
“Having not been to the regionals since 2011, it’s been fun to watch this team at times this season,” Berry said. “These guys don’t panic at all, they just play the game. There’s enough pressure to play the game and meet expectations, but these guys are just playing the game the right way and not worrying about that stuff.
“Honestly, coming off last year, it was frustrating. We felt like we had done enough to warrant being one of the 64 teams in the field, but we were left out, and everyone can argue why,” he continued. “Our players were disappointed, as they should’ve been, and we carried that chip on our shoulder into this season. They felt we didn’t get enough respect at the end of last season, and they were determined to earn that respect back.”
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