Golden Eagles take flight for World Series

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 8, 2009

From staff reports

For the first time in school history, Southern Miss is heading to the College World Series. And for the fourth time in five seasons, Ole Miss came up just short.

Southern Miss defeated Florida, 7-6, on Sunday night to sweep the best-of-three Gainesville Super Regional and advance to the CWS for the first time. The Golden Eagles will play either Texas or Texas Christian in their first-round CWS game on Saturday or Sunday. The World Series schedule will be announced tonight, after Texas and TCU play Game 3 of their super regional.

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Sunday’s victory continued a magical run for Southern Miss. It has won 12 of its last 15 games, including five of six in the postseason. In the deciding game against Florida, USM rallied from a 6-1 deficit early in the game and took the lead by scoring three times in the bottom of the eighth inning.

For Corky Palmer, who is retiring at the end of the season after 12 years as USM’s coach, the charge to Omaha has provided a welcome retirement gift.

“I’m just so proud of our team. Winning the super regional the way we did it and to come back against a fine Florida team at home is amazing. To be down 6-1 and come back and win that game was special,” Palmer said. “It’s been a great ride. I don’t know what happened three weeks ago but those seniors bonded and we just grew up each week. We’ve earned everything that we have got. We had great relief pitching and Joey (Archer) got the big hit. This is quite an accomplishment for our school to go to Omaha. Seven-straight regionals are nothing to sneeze at but to take this step to Omaha will do wonders for our program.”

While Southern Miss was celebrating, Ole Miss was left to wonder what might have been — again.

The Rebels lost to Virginia, 5-1, Sunday in Oxford in Game 3 of their super regional. Ole Miss won Game 1 of the best-of-three series on Friday, but lost the next two — the third time in five seasons it has followed that pattern in the super regional round. Ole Miss was also swept by Arizona State in a 2007 super regional.

Ole Miss has not advanced to the College World Series since 1972. Virginia will be making its first appearance.

“It’s upsetting, but I’m happy that we made it this far. We just didn’t get a lot of runs. We had balls that were hit hard right at them and they made the plays. They scored a few more runs than we did,” said Ole Miss outfielder Jordan Henry, a former Vicksburg High star. who finished with three hits in three Super Regional games. He also had a double and scored the team’s only run on Sunday.

Vicksburg Post sports writer Jeff Byrd contributed to this story.