For only the second time in Southern Miss baseball history, the Golden Eagles will be hosting a regional in the NCAA Tournament.
On Monday the teams competing in the Hattiesburg Regional were announced and you could say a little extra-spice has been added.
Southern Miss coaches and players gathered to watch ESPN announce the field of 64. Despite losing to Rice on Sunday in the Conference Championship Tournament at MGM Park the 48 and 14 Golden Eagles are eager and ready after losing to Rice on Sunday in the Conference-USA Tournament
Southern Miss opens the double-elimination regional 1 p.m. Friday at Pete Taylor Park, hosting No. 4 seed Illinois-Chicago. The Flames are 39 and 15 and carry an impressive team ERA of 2.69.
Golden Eagles head coach Scott Berry said, "Everybody has a sense of urgency about themselves. This is a whole new season for everybody. And 64 people trying to be one of the eight standing in Omaha. So, we're familiar with Mississippi State as they are with us. Same with South Alabama. We'll scramble to try to get reports on Illinois-Chicago just like they will on us."
Southern Miss first baseman Dylan Burdeaux said, "I definitely think it's a statement, a testament to how hard we have worked all year and how well we have played."
I said a little extra-spice has been added to the Hattiesburg Regional and that spice consists of Mississippi State. Bulldogs head coach Andy Cannizaro and his players watched the announcement on television and they are also excited to be playing in Hattiesburg.
Mississippi State (36-24) battles South Alabama (39-14) Friday night at 6:00. The Bulldogs and Jaguars met three times this season. Mississippi State beat South Alabama 2-0 on March 10 and 8-6 on March 12. The Jaguars defeated the Bulldogs 5-2 on April 18.
Cannizaro said, "It's such an awesome time of the year. Everybody and anybody is capable of beating anyone. And I think just the fact of having gone through a 30-game, the rigorous SEC schedule prepares you for weekends like the one coming up this week."
Mississippi State pitcher Konnor Pilkington of Hurley said, "We got to see those guys and they've got to see us. Really and truly an advantage for us, but also a disadvantage because you have already exposed yourself to the teams and they have a good scouting report on us and everything. But in the end it doesn't really matter. It's playoff baseball and anything can happen."
Southern Miss and Mississippi State could tangle in the winners bracket on Saturday if both the Golden Eagles and Bulldogs post wins on Friday.
The Golden Eagles beat Mississippi State 7 to 5 in March.
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