May 21, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Southern Miss baseball team has a chance to start a new streak this week.
After missing last season's NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 seasons, the Golden Eagles' focus switches from their Conference USA regular-season title run to trying to capture their first C-USA tournament crown since 2010 and return to the postseason.
Tournament play begins Wednesday in Houston at Rice's Reckling Park with Southern Miss taking on No. 7 Tulane in a 3 p.m., contest. All of the Eagles' tournament games can be heard on the Southern Miss IMG Sports Network.
The Golden Eagles (28-25 overall, 15-9 in C-USA) captured a share of the regular-season crown last week by defeating Houston once in the three-game series and hold the No. 2 seed in the event. It is the second time in the last three years the program has collected the title and third time overall that they have achieved a C-USA regular-season championship.
Southern Miss opens the tournament with the Green Wave (28-27, 11-13) for the third time in the last five years and the fourth time overall and as the Golden Eagles are 3-0 in those games and 7-5 all-time against Tulane in this event. In the two teams' meeting earlier this season, the Golden Eagles took two of three games from Tulane in Hattiesburg.
Following the Tulane game, the Golden Eagles take Thursday off before finishing pod play with No. 6 seed Houston, Friday, at 3 p.m., and a 7 p.m., tilt versus No. 3 East Carolina on Saturday. The other pod features No. 1 Rice, No. 4 Memphis, No. 5 UCF and No. 8 UAB.
The winner of each pod will play in the championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m. That game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
In the tournament opener, Southern Miss expects to send senior right-handed pitcher Andrew Pierce to the mound. Pierce, a finalist for this week's Ferris Trophy for top college baseball player in the state of Mississippi, has posted a 9-2 record this season for the Golden Eagles with a 2.36 earned run average. This will be his third start against Tulane as he has posted a 1-1 mark against the Wave, including an eight-inning performance in which he allowed a solo run with seven strikeouts and just one walk to capture a victory earlier this season.
Senior second baseman Isaac Rodriguez brings a 19-game hitting streak into the tourney, which is the longest for the program this season. During the string, he is hitting .472 (34x72) with six doubles, a homer and 14 RBI. For the season Rodriguez has posted a team-best .356 batting average.
Four other Golden Eagles have posted a plus-.300 batting average including sophomore designated hitter Austin Roussel at .337, senior catcher Chase Fowler at .333, sophomore rightfielder Mason Robbins at .319 and senior centerfielder Dillon Day at .306.
Southern Miss looks to continue its hot hitting as a club as a team in the tournament after posting nine double-digit hit performance in the last 13 games to close out the regular season.
For more information on the Conference USA Tournament, go to SouthernMiss.com or ConferenceUSA.com.