Southern Miss, Tulane renew rivalry

Published 11:27 am Friday, May 4, 2012

To put it simply, Southern Miss’ record shouldn’t be.

The Golden Eagles endured an eight-game stretch over the past 2 ½ weeks in which they scored a total of 14 runs — and somehow went 5-3. They went 17 games without hitting a home run.

And yet, through all of the ups and downs, Southern Miss (25-19, 9-6) is still in third place in Conference USA heading into this weekend’s series at Tulane (29-16, 7-8).

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“It’s weird, because we’re pitching well and playing defense, but we’re not swinging the bat. Earlier on, we were swinging the bat and not pitching,“ Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “We’re just an inconsistent baseball team. The only thing we’re consistent with, is being inconsistent with what we want to do.”

The field for the C-USA Tournament is more or less set. Eight of the nine teams in the league will qualify and eighth-place Houston is five games out of seventh with nine to play in the league.

What is up for grabs is seeding and matchups. After facing Tulane, Southern Miss closes the league schedule with series against East Carolina and UAB. Those three teams are separated by two games in the standings.

With their spot in the C-USA Tournament likely secure, Berry said it was more important to get his team playing on an even keel over the last three weeks of the season.

“It’s important to me that we play baseball.“ Berry said. “If we get beat playing like we’re supposed to, that happens. I can live with that. But if we get beat and we’re not competing and doing the things it takes to win baseball games, that’s where I have a problem.”

Given Southern Miss’ recent offensive swoon, the series with Tulane will be a clash of opposites.

Tulane leads Conference USA in team batting average and home runs. It’s first or second in nearly every offensive statistic.

Former Hinds Community College star Nick Schneeberger leads the Green Wave and is second in the conference with a .382 batting average entering the week.

Southern Miss, meanwhile, is in the middle of the pack and struggling to score. Berry said it was mostly a lack of execution in key situations.

During its eight-game slump, USM hit just .184 with runners in scoring position.