Southern Miss trending upward

Published 10:54 am Friday, March 28, 2014

PEARL — As its nearly .500 record can attest, Southern Miss has had plenty of ups and downs this season.

No winning streak has been longer than three games. It sits in the middle of the pack in Conference USA in most offensive and pitching categories.

Yet, improbably, the Golden Eagles’ season appears headed in the right direction.

They’ve won six of their last eight games and their first two league series heading into a three-game set at Florida Atlantic beginning Friday.

After back-to-back come-from-behind wins over Texas-San Antonio and Ole Miss, Southern Miss (13-12) is also over .500 for the first time this season and optimistic for the rest of the season.

“I don’t think I’m happy with the way things have gone. This is the first time we’ve been over .500,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “But it is what it is. I can’t go back and change what’t happened up until now. All I know is, we’re starting to play our best baseball that we’ve played so far over these last eight. That’s what’s important to me is that we’re moving in a direction that gives us a chance to be successful.”

Berry’s optimism might be rooted not just in his own team’s recent performance, but the so-so effort most of Conference USA has turned in during the first half of the season.

Rice (19-6, 8-1 C-USA), Florida International (20-4, 6-3) and East Carolina (13-11, 6-3) have pulled away from the pack a bit. After those teams, nine others are separated by just two games.

Southern Miss is, with a 4-2 record in league play, is among those nine teams. So are its next two conference opponents, FAU (14-10, 3-6) and Middle Tennessee (9-13, 5-4).

That means the next two series offer Southern Miss an opportunity to join the frontrunners and gain some distance on their current neighbors in the standings.

“This weekend will be a great weekend for us to make some leeway and get up there with Rice. Maybe we can take a series from (FAU), and that’d be great to do on the road,” USM infielder and relief pitcher Bradley Roney said.

The Golden Eagles are coming into the FAU series with a lot of momentum. They rallied from six runs down Sunday to beat UTSA 10-9 on a walk-off home run. Then, on Tuesday, they came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Ole Miss in a midweek game at Trustmark Park.

It was, in some ways, a metaphor for the Golden Eagles’ season so far. They got down early, but there’s still plenty of time to make a comeback and salvage things.

“We had the big series win, and this is a huge win for us against a great opponent,” Roney said after the win over Ole Miss. “I think it’s putting us in the right direction for sure.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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