Golden Eagles need big run|College baseball

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 20, 2009

JACKSON — In order to make a seventh straight appearance in a NCAA Tournament regional, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles must win the Conference USA Tournament, which begins today in Hattiesburg.

Outgoing Golden Eagles coach Corky Palmer says his team’s RPI is too low to merit an at-large berth from the NCAA, but his team could get in by taking C-USA’s automatic bid by winning the eight-team tournament. Southern  Miss (32-22) opens play tonight at 7 against Tulane (32-23).

“We’ve got to win this to get in it,” Palmer said of the Golden Eagles’ goal of an NCAA berth. “Our RPI is too low. You can’t move 15 to 18 spots in a week. We’ll have to win the tournament.”

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Doing so, we’ll be tough. East Carolina (41-15) comes in with a ton of momentum. Tulane, meanwhile, took two of three from the Golden Eagles in a weekend series just two weeks ago in Hattiesburg.

“The key for us is to not fall into the loser’s bracket. In the first game, we’ll have Todd McInnis going for us and he’s been super. After that we’ve got (J.R.) Ballinger, but after those two, we have a dropoff,” Palmer said.

McInnis is the Golden Eagles’ ace comes into the C-USA Tourney with a 7-4 record with a 2.78 ERA and has struck out 62 in 71 innings. Ballinger is 4-3 with a 4.29 ERA. Collin Cargill, who three scoreless innings of relief to beat ninth ranked Ole Miss two weeks ago at Trustmark, is the top reliever at 3-2 and eight saves.

“We’ve got our archrival in Tulane first, but it’s going to be good for us to have a healthy Todd McInnis. It’ll be a great opportunity for him,” Palmer said.

The Southern Miss regular season got derailed after the season-ending injury to shortstop Brian Dozer. The Ferriss Trophy finalist batted a team-best .394, but broke his collarbone in the team’s 35th game.

Dozier, though, expects his teammates to be charged up with the host role and to give Palmer, who announced his retirement three weeks ago, a great parting gift.

“Being able to host the Conference USA Tournament is awesome for us,” Dozier said. “Having Todd go first will be a big lift for us. We know Tulane has a great team. We only took one game from them when we played three weeks ago, but we showed against Ole Miss that we can play well. I think we’re capable of putting together a Fresno State-type of run. Fresno had to win the Big West just to get in last year and they wound winning the national championship.”

Southern Miss will have to rely on the hitting of former Hinds Community College star Corey Stevens (.324, seven home runs, 49 RBIs), Bo Davis (.372, 10 home runs, 47 RBIs) and Joey Archer (.290, eight home runs, 47 RBIs) to lead its offense.


Contact Jeff Byrd at