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With 17 years of being a part of Southern Miss baseball, including the last eight as its head coach, Scott Berry is fully aware of what it has taken to build the Golden Eagles into one of the top programs in the nation.
In fact, Berry led the Golden Eagles to arguably its best season in the program’s 89-year history in 2017 with the school’s first-ever 50-win season, another Conference USA regular season crown and the hosting of the school’s second regional in its history en route to capturing its 16th-straight season of 30 or more wins as well as their 16th consecutive winning season.
For his accomplishments, Berry was named the C-USA Coach of the Year for the second time in his tenure, and the accolades for his program included the league’s Player of the Year (Dylan Burdeaux) – the first in the school’s time in the league – Freshman of the Year (Matt Wallner) and Assistant Coach of the Year (Chad Caillet). For the second consecutive year, the Golden Eagles had the most first team all-league selections including Burdeaux, Taylor Braley, Kirk McCarty, Nick Sandlin and Colt Smith. Wallner and Mason Irby enjoyed second-team picks.
Wallner also earned a spot on almost every All-American and Freshman All-American squad and became the first Golden Eagle to capture the Baseball America National Freshman of the Year and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman Hitter of the Year. In all, four different Golden Eagles enjoyed All-America status including Braley, Burdeaux, Nick Sandlin and Wallner. The program also enjoyed their first Academic All-Americans since 2011 with Kirk McCarty (second team) and Sandlin (third team) collecting those awards.
Berry added to the Golden Eagles list of accomplishments by turning in his first 40-win season since 2009 during the 2016 campaign, capturing its third Conference USA tournament title and returned to the NCAA postseason after a four-year absence.
His resume now includes three Conference USA regular-season crowns, two league tournament titles, four trips to the C-USA tournament championship game, four NCAA tournament regional berths, two C-USA Coach of the Year honors and one regional host berth.
The 2016 team battled for the C-USA regular season title up until the final weekend before snaring their first league tournament title since 2010 by winning four-straight games at Pete Taylor Park, including a 3-2 championship game victory over perennial favorite Rice.
The Golden Eagles enjoyed a league high five first-team all-league selections including first baseman Tim Lynch, center fielder Jake Sandlin, right fielder Dylan Burdeaux, catcher Chuckie Robinson and pitcher Kirk McCarty. The five selections matched Southern Miss' honorees in 2011, tying for the most Golden Eagles ever named first-team All-C-USA.
Senior pitcher Cord Cockrell was a second-team All-C-USA pick, giving the Golden Eagles' a conference-best six selections on the first two teams. Outfielder Hunter Slater and closer Nick Sandlin were each named to the C-USA All-Freshman team, with Southern Miss one of four conference schools with two selections each.
With the C-USA tournament title, the Golden Eagles returned to the NCAA Tournament after a four-year absence making their first appearance in Tallahassee, Fla., in a quarter of a decade since both teams were member of the old Metro Conference.
Berry’s squad produced yet a couple more All-America selections as Tim Lynch garnered third-team honors by D1Baseball.com and Nick Sandlin collected Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America accolades.
In 2015, Berry’s baseball Golden Eagles tallied a 36-18-1 record. What made 2015 so special for the Golden Eagles included the fact that the team went 4-0 against Southeastern Conference foes, including 2-0 against Ole Miss, while also beating Mississippi State and Alabama in the two schools’ only meeting of the year. In addition, Southern Miss also swept Tulane and South Alabama during both of its meetings during the year. The team also won its last 10 league games to capture 19 C-USA contests during the year.
Senior pitcher James McMahon became only the second Golden Eagle to win the Ferriss Award for top collegiate player in the state of Mississippi last spring, marking the second time that the program has won that accolade – both coming under the tutelage of Berry.
McMahon, who was also the C-USA Pitcher of the Year, went on to become the school’s first All-American since Todd McInnis collected the honor in 2011.
During the season, Golden Eagle pitchers tallied a school-record 10 shutouts, while the offense collected their most home runs (42) since the 2010 campaign.
His 2014 club finished 10 games over .500 and reach the bracket final of the C-USA Tournament, finished 35-25 overall and 19-11 in league play. The 19 wins in C-USA play was the most since the 2005 club tallied 20.
In 2013, the Golden Eagles tied with Rice for the second time in the three seasons as the conference’s regular-season champion. The program reached the C-USA title game for the second time under Berry, dropping the contest in 11 innings to Rice at Reckling Park in Houston. The Golden Eagles had previously defeated Rice in the 2010 C-USA title matchup, a victory that sent Southern Miss to the postseason in Berry’s first year as head coach. The team finished 30-27 in 2013.
Four players from the 2013 squad earned All-C-USA honors. Senior catcher Chase Fowler, senior pitcher Andrew Pierce and senior infielder Isaac Rodriguez earned first-team accolades while sophomore pitcher/outfielder Mason Robbins garnered second-team honors.
In 2012, a young Southern Miss squad went through growing pains but still captured 32 wins during the campaign.
The development of youth was evident in the club as four players earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors, including Freshman of the Year Mason Robbins, along with pitcher Jake Drehoff, infielder/outfielder Michael Sterling and pitcher/infielder Bradley Roney.
The Golden Eagles also boasted the league’s Newcomer of the Year in Andrew Pierce. A junior college pitcher, Pierce was also a first-team league selection with Ashley Graeter earning second-team honors.
In 2011, Berry earned C-USA Coach of the Year Honors as he led the program to its ninth-consecutive NCAA postseason as Southern Miss captured a share of the Conference USA regular season title en route to a 39-19 mark and a berth in the 2011 NCAA Atlanta Regional.
The 2011 season produced many awards for Berry’s squad. Outfielder Tyler Koelling became the school’s first recipient of the Ferriss Trophy, awarded to the top collegiate baseball player in the state of Mississippi, and was one of four Golden Eagles to earn First-Team All-Conference USA honors. The other honorees were Todd McInnis, Marc Bourgeois and B.A. Vollmuth. McInnis also garnered Pitcher of the Year honors in the league for the second time in his career.
Veteran reliever Collin Cargill, along with Adam Doleac, captured second-team honors, while Jared Bales earned league All-Freshman honors. In addition, Bales earned mention to two different Freshman All-America teams.
The Golden Eagles also excelled off the field as Bourgeois was named the program’s first Academic All-American since 2009, earning first-team honors at designated hitter. He was named the C-USA Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the sport and also spearheaded a group of three players – himself, McInnis and Doleac – that made the league’s All-Academic Team.
In Berry’s first season as head coach, 2010, he was able to continue the success that he helped build while an assistant. That season, the Golden Eagles compiled a 36-24 record and won their first Conference USA tournament title since 2003 when they defeated nationally-ranked Rice 7-4 in the championship game, a win that earned the program its eighth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Southern Miss boasted two All-Americans that year, pitcher Scott Copeland and shortstop B.A. Vollmuth. The duo, along with Todd McInnis and Collin Cargill, was named first-team All-Conference USA.
Berry’s initial success as the top man in the program came on the heels of a magical 2009 season in which Berry, as associate head coach to Corky Palmer, helped lead the program to its first Super Regional. In that round of the postseason, Southern Miss swept Florida in Gainesville and earned an inaugural visit to the College World Series. The team finished with a No. 8 final ranking in three different polls.
Also in 2009, with Berry’s guidance, McInnis garnered the school’s first major Conference USA postseason award as he was named the C-USA Pitcher of the Year. McInnis was 9-4 with a 3.73 ERA and 90 strikeouts compared to only 34 walks. Pitcher J.R. Ballinger was also taken in the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago White Sox in the 11th round.
Prior to his appointment as the Golden Eagles’ top man on May 7, 2009, Berry spent the previous six years as the associate head coach and the three seasons prior to that as an assistant coach on the Southern Miss baseball staff.
Berry oversaw the Golden Eagles pitching staff, worked with the catchers, had recruiting responsibilities and assisted with the program’s camps and clinics from 2003-2009. Prior to the 2003 season, he served as the team’s hitting coach and worked with catchers and outfielders.
Southern Miss had an All-American pitcher for four-straight years from 2003-06, tying TCU for the second-longest streak in the nation, a credit to the job Berry did.
In 2008, Berry guided two more All-American pitchers in Barry Bowden and Tyler Conn. Bowden was 8-3 with a 2.12 ERA and Conn led the nation with 18 saves and was the runner-up for the NCBWA’s Stopper of the Year award. Both Bowden and Conn signed professionally after the season along with juniors Brian Leach and Josh Billeaud, giving the Golden Eagles four pitchers to move into the professional ranks at the season’s conclusion.
In addition, McInnis earned Freshman All-American honors, making him, at the time, the second player whom Berry had coached to such an honor.
Overall, the Southern Miss pitching staff posted a 4.78 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .276 average in 2008. Throughout the season one of the main strengths was the Southern Miss bullpen, which finished 19-3 with 20 saves on the season. The bullpen was so dominant that the Golden Eagles were 38-1 when they were tied or had the lead after six innings.
In 2007, the Golden Eagle pitching staff posted a 3.79 ERA and had three pitchers with seven or more wins. Southern Miss pitchers fanned 416 batters and walked only 180 while opposing hitters hit .261. Right-hander Ryan Belanger earned All-Conference honors and J.R. Ballinger earned a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman team.
In 2006, Berry coached his fourth-straight closer to All-American honors as Daniel Best posted a 6-2 record with a 2.22 ERA and tied the school single-season record with 13 saves. Best also earned All-American distinction in 2005, when he recorded 11 saves with a 3-0 record and a 0.46 ERA. He was a finalist for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award in 2005 and was drafted in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft by Kansas City.
Two of Berry’s pitchers, Ryan Belanger and Cliff Russum, registered eight wins in 2006 and the team’s ERA improved from 5.13 in 2005 to 4.80. Southern Miss struck out 416 batters and walked only 211. Catcher Kevin Coker earned All-Conference USA honors and senior Scott Massey also was drafted in the 24th round by Pittsburgh.
In 2005, Patrick Ezell, the Conference USA Preseason Pitcher of the Year, led the starters with seven wins against just three losses, while Matt Caire followed with a 6-3 record. Relief pitcher Tyler Perrett led the way with a 5-0 record in 24 appearances.
Catcher Brad Willcutt, one of the best to ever play behind the dish at Southern Miss, was selected as a third-team All-American as a senior and was drafted in the 27th round by Milwaukee.
In 2004, two of Berry’s pitchers finished with eight or more wins and four finished with six or more wins. The staff posted 468 strikeouts and only 224 walks. Senior Austin Tubb was named to several All-American teams, the CoSIDA Academic All-American team and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. Senior Anthony DeWitt was named to the Conference USA second team and was drafted by the Houston Astros. Freshman Patrick Ezell was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, and fellow freshman Mike Cashion was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team as well as the C-USA All-Tournament team.
In his first year as the pitching coach in 2003, Berry worked with a staff that produced four hurlers with eight-or-more victories and a sparkling 3.45 ERA, the top in Conference USA. That staff recorded 460 strikeouts, walked just 219, and limited opponents to a .257 batting average. Austin Tubb was named to the NCBWA All-American team and Bob McCrory was named to the All-C-USA team.
When Berry mentored the Golden Eagle hitters, fans saw the batting average improve from .279 during the 2001 season to a .304 average in 2002. The Golden Eagles had seven players hit .300 or better and three players with 40 or more RBIs. And even with Berry working primarily in other areas, that hitting success carried over to the 2003 season when Southern Miss hitters compiled a .319 batting average, with eight players finishing at .300 or better. Golden Eagle hitters banged out 89 home runs and 142 doubles.
After completing an unbelievable four-year stint as the head coach at Meridian Community College from 1997-2000, including two trips to the National Junior College World Series, Berry rejoined his mentor, Corky Palmer, at Southern Miss prior to the 2001 season.
A native of Neosho, Mo., he compiled an impressive record of 185-58, including two seasons of 50 wins or more. During his four-year tenure at Meridian, Berry’s squad spent the entire time in the top 10 of the national polls. He had more than 25 players sign NCAA Division I scholarships and had, at that time, nine former players in the professional ranks.
Berry’s most successful professional player was Cliff Lee, who studied under Berry at in 1999 and 2000 at Meridian Community College. Lee was honored after his eighth year in the major leagues with the 2008 American League Cy Young Award.
For his efforts, Berry was honored as a three-time Region 23 Coach of the Year, three-time district coach of the year, three-time Louisville Slugger Coach of the Year Award and two-time Diamond Sports ABCA Region Coach of the Year.
On January 24, 2010, MCC recognized Berry’s accomplishments and retired his jersey number (40).
In 2000, Meridian finished fifth in the nation with a 46-19 record and took its second trip under Berry to the National Junior College World Series. The program made its first trip under Berry to the college world series in 1998, when they posted a 52-12 record and ended the season as the No. 5 team in the nation.
His first season, 1997, saw his squad ranked as the top team in the country from the preseason poll until the final regular season poll. That team posted a 50-8 record and advanced to the district finals before their season ended. Berry’s first stint with Palmer started in 1991, when he was hired as an assistant coach at Meridian. After a six-year tenure as the assistant coach, he took over the reins of the Meridian program when Palmer returned to Southern Miss to join Hill Denson’s staff.
For his outstanding service at Meridian, Berry was inducted in the Mississippi Junior College Hall of Fame in the spring of 2014.
He completed his bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in physical education from Southwest Missouri State University in 1986 and also received his master’s degree from SMSU in 1989 with a degree in secondary education with an emphasis in administration.
His collegiate career began at Crowder College, where he was a two-time all-region selection as a catcher and was named the team’s most valuable player as a sophomore. Berry was forced to end his playing career early with a back injury. He spent the last two years of his undergraduate tenure as a student assistant at SMSU.
Berry, and his wife, Laura, have two children, Garren, and Kathryn (Kitty Grace). Laura received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Miss in speech communication. He is the son of Marilyn Berry and the late James Berry of Neosho, Mo.