April 24, 2016
Baseball Attendance Record, Series Win Over Rice, Reunions, and Football Spring Game Highlight Weekend
Beautiful weather, record crowds and another dose of Pete Taylor Park Magic all resulted in an incredible Eagle Fest Weekend at Southern Miss.
Nearly 12,000 fans packed The Pete throughout the weekend in a battle for First Place as the Golden Eagles hosted Rice. That total included a record-setting 4,950 for Saturday's tilt against the Owls which stands as the highest ever for a C-USA Game at The Pete and the 6th Highest Total for any home game at the picturesque ballpark.
Saturday featured an absolutely beautiful day for the marquee day of Eagle Fest. The day began with the Future Golden Eagle Football Camp at The Rock as young children had the opportunity to go through football drills with members of the Southern Miss Football team and coaching staff. This year's camp featured the highest number of participants in the 5 year history of the event as the children enjoyed the one-hour long camp.
Simultaneously, the 3rd Annual Champions Brunch was held in the Giannini Touchdown Terrace. A record-crowd was on hand to hear from several Golden Eagle greats as the event was sold-out several days in advance. This year's panel featured record-setting QB Austin Davis, currently with the Cleveland Browns organization, standout LB Antoine Cash, former Head Coach Curley Hallman, and former QB and longtime radio analyst Vic Purvis. This event has quickly become one of the highlights of Eagle Fest as fans had the opportunity to mix and mingle with these all-time greats and hear their stories of their time at Southern Miss.
The Golden Eagle faithful packed the stands of M.M. Roberts in large numbers at Noon to witness firsthand the first Black and Gold Spring Game of the Jay Hopson Era. The squads were evenly matched in the contest and the defense for both teams shined as both teams combined for seven sacks on the day. Ultimately the Gold Team prevailed 10-7 as the Golden Eagles wrapped up spring practice. The team returns a solid core from the 2015 West Division Championship team and optimism is running high as the team prepares for the 2016 season.
Following the Black and Gold Spring Game, a new tradition was introduced with the first ever 5th Quarter Festival. Over 4,000 fans filled Spirit Park to enjoy live music, free food samples, several inflatables and tailgate games. The event included a tailgate for the Football team and M-Club members as everyone was able to enjoy an exciting tailgate scene. The Southern Miss Cheerleaders and Seymour were on hand to take part in the fun as part of the Kids Zone with inflatables, games and even puppies as the Southern Pine Animal Shelter was on location.
After enjoying their fill of free food and tailgating, Golden Eagle Nation made their way to The Pete in record numbers to see the Golden Eagles take on Rice as part of Corky Palmer Day. Over 100 former Baseball Lettermen were on hand for the festivities that included a tailgate and on-field presentation. The 2006 NCAA Regional team was also recognized as part of their 10-Year Anniversary with Southern Miss career home run leader Marc Maddox throwing out the First Pitch on behalf of the team.
Surrounded by several of his former players and coaches, Carlton "Corky" Palmer was recognized prior to the game. After retiring from coaching in 2009, Coach Palmer has remained on staff assisting with fundraising efforts for the Eagle Club and Dugout Club. This spring, Coach Palmer will officially retire from this role and to send him off in style, his own day was held on Saturday at The Pete as part of Eagle Fest. Gifts presented by Director of Athletics Bill McGillis and Head Coach Scott Berry included a plaque commemorating Saturday as Corky Palmer Day at The Pete, a photo collage of Coach Palmer's illustrious career and a new Southern Miss watch. While these gifts were appreciated by Coach Palmer, his favorite gift was saved for last as he was presented with a Gift Card for Free Subs for a Year from Lenny's Sub, his daily lunch spot.
Finally, a cherry was placed on top for the weekend as the Golden Eagles battled Rice in the rubber match of the Showdown at The Pete. The teams exchanged zeros across the scoreboard on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon as pitching dominated the day. With the score tied at one apiece in the bottom of the 9th, the Golden Eagle faithful rose to their feet as all could sense the Pete Taylor Park Magic in the air. After a Tracy Hadley sacrifice bunt advanced Hunter Slater to third base, pinch hitter Daniel Keating came to the plate to a thunderous ovation. With the crowd stomping along, Keating lined the game-winning hit to right centerfield as the Golden Eagles came running out of the dugout to celebrate a hard-fought victory in a battle of first place teams.
All in all, this weekend will go down as one of the most successful Eagle Fest weekends as fans of all ages enjoyed themselves throughout a gorgeous weekend on campus and the Golden Eagles claimed sole possession of First Place in Conference USA.