Southern Miss Baseball aims to carry momentum into 2023 season

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 8:44 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WLOX) - ”The vision Hill Denson had in 1986, everybody laughed at,” said Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry. “What we’re seeing today is what Hill saw in 1986.”

Southern Miss baseball and head coach Scott Berry are coming into 2023 with high expectations after a 40+ win season and hosting a super regional for the first time ever.

The 2023 squad has 19 returners, with 12 of them seeing significant time last year, and they’ll bring in 18 new members.

“There’s a pretty good balance between returners and new guys, whether they’re guys out of high school, junior college transfers or even a couple portal guys who are graduate transfers,” said Berry. “I like the mix that we have, I like the guys returning from last year’s team, particularly on the position players side. We return basically every position except for two.”

Two returners who made a big impact on last year’s team are Vancleave’s Carson Paetow and Gulfport’s Blake Johnson.

Both say last season showed them the caliber of team they could be, and now, they’re ready to prove it again.

“We’re going to harp on the past, but we’re definitely using those tough parts of the season as motivation to drive us through the season,” said Paetow. “Before the season, during the offseason, it helped us work harder. I’m trying to be better than I was last year. Past accomplishments don’t help me play better in the future, so I’m going to try and play better.”

“I think it’s something to look forward to, we had something to build off of last year, we have a lot of experience back and a lot of new guys who don’t know that feeling,” said Johnson. “It’s something we’re building off of but also a stepping stone hopefully to move on.”

One of those newcomers is pretty familiar to Johnson, as his former Gulfport and Jones teammate Gabe Lacy transfers in from Tennessee Tech to join the Golden Eagles.

“It means the whole world,” said Lacy. “Our last game together was at Jones in 2020 before COVID hit. I was on second and he was hitting and he hit a walk-off double and I scored the winning run; that was the last game we played in. Hopefully we can have a few of those this year, but man, it’s like being back in high school again.”

Another newcomer also hails from the coast in former West Harrison and Pearl River product Tate Parker.

“I came up here to a lot of the games, and the crowds here were second to none,” said Parker. “The way these people treat this program, they’re all in, and it’s a lot like Pearl River. A lot of people in this whole town they support the team really well and that’s really fun to see as a player.”

Over the years through returners and newcomers alike, Coach Berry says the consistency in which the team operates and the culture they’ve built have kept the Golden Eagles climbing to the top.

“People have asked me, ‘Why has Southern Miss been successful?’ And I think number one is we have avoided change,” said Berry. “We’ve had people in place that have been able to be successful and we have avoided the learning curve of always getting another coach certainly we feel like our program is at a point right now where we’re one of the top programs in the country.”

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