By Robert Wilson
Southern Miss is one of the hottest college baseball teams in the country.
The Golden Eagles won their ninth straight game and 17th of the last 19 games with a second straight Conference USA three-game sweep, and defeated Florida International 6-4 in 12 innings Saturday at Florida International in Miami.
Southern Miss is ranked No. 6 in the nation by DI Baseball and is in the Top 10 for the first time since it finished No. 8 after it made it to the College World Series in 2009. The Eagles improved to 28-7 overall and 13-2 in CUSA play. Southern Miss is 3-0 against SEC teams, with wins over defending national champion Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama. The Eagles have made the NCAA Tournament for the past five seasons, not counting the 2020 when covid cancelled the tournament. Southern Miss is on pace to host a NCAA Regional for the first time since 2017 when MSU defeated Southern Miss in the regional final. Ole Miss defeated Southern Miss in the regional final in Oxford last season.
It was the second straight weekend Southern Miss won the third game of the conference series in extra innings, winning at Charlotte in the 13th inning last Sunday.
Southern Miss junior outfielder and Pearl River Community College alumnus Reece Ewing hit a two-run home run in the top of the 12th for the winning runs Saturday at Miami.
Southern Miss used six pitchers and Florida International didn’t score after the third inning. Junior right-hander and Northwest Rankin High and Hinds CC alumnus Garrett Ramsey came in in the ninth and threw the final four innings to get the victory and improve to 5-0. He came in with runners on first and third and no outs. Then with the bases loaded and two out and a 3-1 count to the batter, the umpire called a delayed strike and the runner on third thought it was ball four and started running home. Catcher Blake Johnson ran down the runner and tagged him for the third out to send the game into extra innings.
Before Ramsey, sophomore right-hander and West Lauderdale High alumnus Ben Ethridge came in with runners on base to get out of a jam in the third inning. Then sophomore left-hander and Northwest Rankin High and Jones County Junior College alumnus Dalton Rogers did the same thing in the sixth and sophomore right-hander and Northeast Lauderdale High and Pearl River CC alumnus Landon Harper got out of a jam in the seventh.
“Our five relievers did an outstanding job,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “Several of them inherited runners and got out of it without giving up any runs. Our guys were resilient, didn’t give in. We never wavered and got the job done.”
Southern Miss is 9-0 on the road in conference games.
“We have outstanding leadership,” Berry said. “When we go on the road it’s not a vacation, it’s a business trip. That’s how we approach it.”
Southern Miss ranks second in the country in earned run average as of Thursday. The Eagles have a 2.83 ERA, second behind Tennessee’s 1.92. Sophomore right-hander Hurston Waldrep has the team-low 1.93 and ranks 34th in the country. Sophomore right-hander Tanner Hall is second on the team at 2.21 and is 46th nationally and Delta State graduate transfer right-hander Hunter Riggins is third at 2.25 and tied for 48th nationally. Southern Miss in the only team in the country with three players in the Top 50.
Berry is in his 13th season as head coach at Southern Miss. He replaced Corky Palmer, who retired after the 2009 College World Series season. Berry was Palmer’s associate coach for six seasons and assistant coach for three seasons. As head coach, Berry has guided Southern Miss to four C-USA tournament titles, four regular season C-USA titles, seven NCAA Tournament appearances and has been named C-USA Coach of the Year three times. Berry led the Golden Eagles to their fifth consecutive 40-win season, only Dallas Baptist has a longer current streak (seven).
Before coming to Southern Miss, Berry was head coach at Meridian CC for four seasons and took Meridian to two National Junior College World Series. The Missouri native was an assistant coach for six seasons under Palmer at Meridian CC before Palmer joined Hill Denson at Southern Miss.