Not that long ago, in fact just two weeks ago, a good chunk of Southern Miss fans were on the verge of or had already hit the panic button on Golden Eagle baseball.
In that five-game losing streak, which was the longest for the program since 2013, the Golden Eagles hit .209 as a team. For a program that is/has had a Golden Age over the past decade, part of that success has been the ability to hit the ball. Hitting has been the identity of Southern Miss baseball, along with Pete Taylor Park magic.
Nonetheless, Southern Miss was dealing with early season injuries and at the same time faced tough opponents in Mississippi State, UNO and Gonzaga.
However, beginning with the start of conference play against Louisiana Tech, the team has appeared to awaken from its slump. Part of the difference, according to team captain Matthew Guidry, is that the team is playing with a much more laid back attitude than they had at the beginning of the season.
“I think we were kind of putting a little bit too much pressure on ourselves whenever there was no need for it,” Guidry said after Sunday’s 9-0 win over ODU. “We’re just playing a baseball game. That’s kind of been our motto. We’re out here and getting the awesome chance to play in front of all these people. There’s no reason to really stress out about it.”
At the same time, Brant Blaylock has returned to the lineup and has been a key in the team’s offensive production.
Blaylock returned to the lineup on March 15 against LA Tech. Since that game, Blaylock has put up 10 RBI in the recent seven-game win streak.
Whether it was confidence, injuries or both, the team looks to have its mojo back. The Golden Eagles have now won 11 of their last 12 games, a 6-0 start in Conference USA play, swept a very good LA Tech team and have now hit .350 in the last seven games.
It’s worth noting that I think Old Dominion was an overrated team based on their strength of schedule, but LA Tech is a legitimate team and will make a run in the C-USA tournament.
The biggest issue now for Southern Miss will be facing teams with high RPIs. In case you don’t know what RPI or “rating percentage index” is, it’s a mathematical system that college baseball uses based on a team’s wins and losses and strength of schedule. This determines if a team should get an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament or host a regional.
Southern Miss entered the weekend at 84 in the RPI rankings but has now made a massive jump to 55. The key is to play as many teams in the top 50, but as of now the only team left on the schedule that is in that category is Ole Miss at 42. The next closest opponent is South Alabama at 69.
Regardless, Southern Miss has to erase what happened earlier in the season from its mind and try to find a solid and set weekend starting rotation. Once that comes together, Southern Miss should be able to go deep in postseason play.