HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - Coming off their 50-win, Conference USA Regular Season Championship season, Southern Miss approaches the upcoming 2018 season with great expectations.
In fact, Wednesday's Conference USA preseason poll pegged the Golden Eagles to repeat as conference champs, also tabbing sophomore Matt Wallner as the preseason Player of the Year and junior Nick Sandlin as the preseason Pitcher of the Year.
Gulfport natives Daniel Keating and Alex Nelms are two of a large number of returnees from last year's squad, and they realize the target is now firmly on their backs.
"The expectations at Southern Miss have always been great," head coach Scott Berry said at Thursday's Media Day. "That's the way we want it. Where the coaches have voted us, honestly, it's where we want to be."
"I think we just take it with a grain of salt," said Keating. "We've got a great bunch this year (and) we're really experienced. I think it's going to be an exciting year for us."
"We just owe it to everybody to have another great year, and I think we can," Nelms said. "We have the pieces. Our lineup (is) incredible. Pitching staff, we're gonna have to step up. We lost some great guys. But as always, season coming up, we're just rearing to go."
The Golden Eagles open the 2018 season Friday, February 16th against Mississippi State, the same team that outlasted Southern Miss in the 2017 Hattiesburg Regional.