BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Whether it’s the short drive from Hattiesburg or their last two trips to the tournament title Game, the Southern Miss baseball team has grown quite fond of MGM Park.
“This is definitely one of my favorite places to play," USM junior Matt Wallner said. "Outside of (Pete Taylor Park), probably the number one.”
However, unlike their last two trips to the Coast, the Golden Eagles (34-19, 20-10 in conference) do not boast the tournament’s number one seed. This year, that honor goes to Florida Atlantic (37-18, 22-8), who outlasted USM for the regular season conference championship.
“To me, baseball is a long-haul sport. To be the best team for ten straight weeks means a lot to me, means a lot to these guys,” FAU head coach John McCormack said. “The number one seed is a bonus.”
No matter what happens this week at MGM Park, FAU is likely a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament... while Southern Miss has some work to do to make a regional.
After losing their last three regular season series, if they want to try and make a run at Omaha, the Golden Eagles believe they will first have to make a run here in Biloxi.
“Our mindset coming in to this tournament is we need to win it," said Southern Miss pitcher Alex Nelms, a Gulfport alum. "That’s always the mindset, but this year especially. We feel like that’s just what we need to do, is we need to go all the way and win the tournament. That’s all there is to it.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech is playing for more than just the postseason.
On the morning of April 25, the Bulldogs awoke to their home stadium completely devastated by an EF-3 tornado, with several other athletic facilities taking damage as well.
“It’s been tough, man. It’s been a tough month,” Louisiana Tech head coach Lane Burroughs said. “We’ve been practicing at a high school field and dressing in a high school locker room. That field got destroyed the other night with a storm, it’s been crazy.”
After facing more than their fair share of adversity, the third-seeded Bulldogs (34-22, 17-13) are hopeful to find success on the Coast, and lift up their community along the way.
“It has brought us together," said LA Tech infielder Tanner Huddleston, a George County alum. "We know that we got a bunch of people looking up to us and we’re writing our own story. If we were to win this tournament and go on to a Regional, it would be a big story. But we’re just kind of writing our own story, you know?”
The story of the 2019 Conference USA Baseball Tournament will begin being written starting Wednesday, May 22.
(3) Louisiana Tech and (6) Marshall start things off at 9 a.m. with (2) Southern Miss taking on (7) Rice at 12:30 p.m. The top-seeded Owls follow with (8) UTSA at 4 p.m. while (5) Old Dominion and (4) Western Kentucky close out the tournament’s first day at 7:30 p.m.