Southern Miss prepares for Super Regional, eyes first College World Series appearance since 2009
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WLBT) - Southern Miss baseball is set for another historic weekend, playing the Tennessee Volunteers for the first time ever and hosting back-to-back Super Regionals in Hattiesburg against an SEC opponent.
It’ll be the last time legendary head coach Scott Berry will grace Pete Taylor Park, who announced his retirement in May.
“It means the world, not [just] for me, but for our players, for Tanner Hall to come back here,” Coach Berry said. “We were able to go on the road, come through the losers bracket, and do what we needed to do to put it in the committees’ hands to reward us with a Super Regional and let Tanner Hall and the seniors finish this thing out in Pete Taylor Park.”
A big reason Southern Miss is still playing postseason baseball is the play of freshman Nick Monistere, who has completed the lineup since starting his first game at second base on April 8 and has created game-winning moments while facing elimination in the Auburn Regional.
“I think there were two moments in our season that really helped us move forward. One was the implementation of Monistere in the lineup,” Coach Berry said. “We’ve never looked back and he’s never been out of the lineup since. He gave us a charge that we needed not only in our lineup but down in the [batting] order.”
The Golden Eagles will have a big advantage this weekend hosting the Volunteers. USM has been great at their home park all season, winning 26 of 31 games in front of one of the best home crowds in the country.
“It’s very exciting,” Berry said. “We’re grateful to host for the second year in a row. It’s not easy to do, and I hope everyone understands that. I’m just proud of our community and university and the state of Mississippi. It is the greatest college baseball state in the country. It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around often and we need to take advantage.”
”It’ll be electric, but it’s been that way all year.”
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Tennessee has a road record of 5-12 compared to their 33-5 home record heading into the matchup. But the Volunteers are hot, sweeping through the Clemson Regional in three games while averaging almost eight runs a game and allowing just over two runs.
“They play with a lot of energy. That coaching staff and myself are good friends and have been for a long time,” Berry said. “We certainly respect them... they have a team with a very high skill set of players and a very good pitching staff. The numbers indicate that with a sub-four ERA and a batting average of .290... They’re very talented and are going to be a pretty good challenge for us, obviously.”
Hosting a Super Regional is a great achievement and only the second time it has happened in Hattiesburg. But, the Golden Eagles aren’t content with the accomplishment as they hope to fly to Omaha, Nebraska to compete in the College World Series for the first time since 2009.
“We’re pumped to be here in a Super Regional,” said Madison native and Southern Miss closer Justin Storm. “Being one of the final 16 teams still playing baseball in the country is incredible, but there are more goals to attain, and you don’t want to lose sight of that.”
”We aren’t satisfied with just making the Super Regional. We want more,” he continued.
Billy Oldham and Andrew Wilson will start on the mound for USM and Tennessee in the opening game of the Hattiesburg Super Regional.
The first pitch is set for 2 p.m. It will be streamed on ESPNU.
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