Southern Miss has played its final Conference USA baseball game after being ousted from the league tournament by No. 5-seed UTSA on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles scored in just one inning in an 11-2 loss to the Roadrunners. Southern Miss got a strong, 4.1-inning outing in relief from Tyler Stuart, but a rocky start from Matt Adams, and a six-run eighth inning from UTSA, grounded the Eagles.
More concerning for USM, its hitters struggled to take advantage of scoring opportunities for the third time in four tournament games. Scott Berry’s club had just one hit in seven tries with runners in scoring position, while UTSA recorded five hits in 12 such situations.
The Golden Eagles hit into three double plays, as well, including one that ended their seventh-inning rally during which they scored their only two runs.
“We just didn’t have a very good tournament,” Berry said. “Not the tournament we wanted. This program is used to getting to championship Sunday. We didn’t last year and we missed out on that. But that’s the goal and that was the goal coming into (this year). You can’t take away what we did over the 30-game conference schedule and that was winning the regular season title.”
UTSA outlasted the Golden Eagles in a Friday morning battle that put USM up against the wall the next day.
Waiting on fate
Southern Miss entered Saturday projected to host a regional in the first round of the NCAA baseball tournament. Even with an early exit, Berry believes his team deserves a spot among the top 16 hosting seeds.
“It’s not that we had a bad tournament, we won two games in this tournament,” Berry said. “Prior to that we were in position to (host). I hope the committee takes into consideration that anybody can have a bad one. It should be looked at what your body of work is over the long haul. But I’m not in that room making those decisions.”
The team’s chances have been aided by other early conference tournament exits from schools on the hosting bubble. Auburn, LSU and Texas State have all been bounced from their respective brackets.
Southern Miss’ live RPI ranking dropped to 20th with Saturday’s loss, placing it squarely on the bubble.
For the players, hosting is preferred, but not exactly necessary to the outcome on the field.
“We’re a very confident team,” first baseman Christopher Sargent said. “We’re 43-16, we’ve had a great year. Wherever we go, if it’s here or if it’s somewhere else, this team is going to give everything they have. Go out there and just play every day. We’re confident in what we have.”
The selection show is set to start at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPN2. Regionals officially begin on Friday, June 3.