Southern Miss opens with Arizona State in Baton Rouge RegionalBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG – The Southern Miss Golden Eagles are heading to Louisiana as the No. 3 seed in the Baton Rouge Regional.
Southern Miss (38-19) will match up with second-seeded Arizona State (37-17) at noon on Friday, while LSU (37-24), the host team, will play Stony Brook (31-21) at 6 p.m. The nightcap is a rematch of 2012’s Super Regionals where the Seawolves upset the Tigers to advance to the College World Series.
It’s the fourth straight trip to an NCAA Regional for Southern Miss, and the program is 10 years removed from its trip to the College World Series in 2009. That team, Southern Miss coach Scott Berry says, reminds him a lot of this year’s squad.
“We felt like right where we were in ’09, how we ended the year in the regular season was how we ended up basically with this team,” Berry said. “Then we got in our tournament in ’09 and had momentum and felt like we couldn’t get beat. I really felt like it was the same thing with this them.
“The only difference was we lost to Rice in the championship game, and this year we were able to win that title.”
Bryant Bowen, Southern Miss’ designated hitter, is one of four Louisiana natives on the team. When Southern Miss was announced in the Baton Rouge Regional, Bowen immediately texted his friends from Shreveport who attend LSU.
“I actually texted like seven of my really close best friends and I said, ‘I’ll see y’all at the ballpark,’ because they all go to school there,” Bowen said. “I’m super thrilled. I know I’ll have a lot of friends and family there.”
When asked what his first reaction was when he saw Arizona State as Southern Miss’ opponent, Bowen thought, “Who’s their Friday night guy?”
“I’m sure he’s a stud,” Bowen added.
Alec Marsh has held down that position, positing a 9-3 record with a 3.17 ERA. In 96.2 innings, which leads the team, he’s struck out 92 and walked 33 while opponents are hitting .241 at the plate.
Offensively, the Sun Devils have six players who are hitting better than .300 with at least 200 at-bats. Spencer Torkelson leads the team with a .348 clip and 21 homers while Hunter Bishop has a team-high 22 long balls.
The Sun Devils, which finished fifth in Pac-12 standings with a 16-13 conference record, began the season 21-0 before it has dropped its last six of seven three-game weekend series to close out the year.
“I know they led the country in home runs. That’s about it,” Walker Powell, Southern Miss’ Friday night starter, said when asked if he knew anything about Arizona State.
Powell is right. The Sun Devils have hit 92 home runs in 54 games this season.
The 6-foot-7 right-hander came back after three days of rest to pitch four innings in the C-USA Tournament championship, so if he did pitch the opening game of the Regional it would be on four days rest.
On Monday, Berry couldn’t say what his pitching rotation would be for the Baton Rouge Regional.
“I woke up this morning thinking about that scenario,” Berry said. “We don’t (know) yet. We still have three days to figure that out and we’re going to take our time. Certainly we’re going to protect our student athletes and not push them, but on the same hand, we’re going to make the best decisions that enable us to win. We’ll get together as a staff and figure that one out later.”