The Golden Eagles are coming off of a 40-win season and the Conference USA title.
The team will face 10 teams that made it into the NCAA tournament. This includes in-state rivals Mississippi State and Ole Miss, while also conference rivals Florida International, Louisiana Tech and Rice.
The toughest matchups of the season for the Golden Eagles non-conference schedule is when they play Tulane and South Alabama. Last year, Southern Miss dropped both games to Tulane. This game will be a high RPI (rating percentage index) game that could be the difference in national seeding later in the season.
South Alabama beat Southern Miss in three out of four games last season, one of which was in the elimination game of the NCAA tournament, ending the season for the Golden Eagles. South Alabama will look again to be a strong team.
The biggest series in the conference will be when Southern Miss plays Rice Apr.14-16 in Houston. The Golden Eagles will have to travel to Texas in the heat of the conference schedule. Rice will be looking to avenge the tough loss it took last year in the conference championship, increasing the stakes even further for that matchup.
Another important series for Southern Miss is against Florida International. Florida International has begun to emerge as a baseball powerhouse and swept the Golden Eagles last season. This year the series will be played in Hattiesburg early in conference play.
The team will wrap up its season on a four-game road trip to Southeastern Louisiana — a qualifier for the NCAA tournament — and then end the season at Texas-San Antonio.
Southern Miss will come into this season having to replace a plethora of important starters.
Gone are the days of Cord Cockrell, the Friday night starter who finished tied for second on the team with seven wins. Also, Tim Lynch, who was drafted in the ninth round by the New York Yankees, will not be returning for Southern Miss after starting all 61 games and batting a team-high .365 batting average.
Catcher Chuckie Robinson, who was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 21st round, was a consistent starter, also batting a .288 and raking in 44 RBIs, which was second on the team.
This season will not be just about the loss of consistent faces on the team, but also the leadership of those players who have stayed. Taylor Braley, who was injured early in the season, will be returning to the team after leading the conference in home runs at the time of his injury.
Dylan Burdeaux, who led the team in home runs with 11, will come back for his senior season. Jake Sandlin, who bated second in the rotation will also return for his senior campaign.
The newcomers on the team, from all positions on the field, will look to add a spark to a baseball team looking to go back to an NCAA Regional this season.
Most of the newcomers on the team are pitchers, and the influx in arms will be a boost to the rotation that just could not last until the NCAA Regional where the Golden Eagles fell against South Alabama in Tallahassee.