Southern Miss’ turnaround season comes to end

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Catcher Samantha Papp gives signs to the infield. Photo by: Makayla Puckett

BIRMINGHAM— The Golden Eagles’ season came to an end after being upset 4-2 in the first game of the Conference USA tournament by UTSA.

The Game

Southern Miss opened the game with a 1-0 lead as Destini Brown led the first inning with a solo home run over the left field wall.

The Golden Eagles added another run in the third inning with an RBI double from Lacey Sumerlin.

However, UTSA pitcher Clarissa Hernandez held off Southern Miss and completed the game allowing just two runs off eights hits.

“[We] started strong, [Destini] Brown started us off strong there,” Southern Miss coach Wendy Hogue said. “It just wasn’t meant for us to move on. I don’t know what we could have done any differently. Everybody went up to the plate. We tried to get a hit. We tried short ball [and] squaring the kid up. Today wasn’t our day.”

The Roadrunner pitching left opportunities for UTSA as they tied the game in the fifth inning with a two-run RBI single and took the game in the top of the seventh inning as the Roadrunners hit an RBI double off the wall and added another insurance run which secured the win.

“It was [a tough one]. It was tough because you aren’t prepared for the end of that,” Hogue said. “You draw a team you feel good against that we certainly didn’t come out to take likely. You put your best lineup on the field, you have the same amount of opportunities as they do for whatever reason they came away with the win today.”

The turnaround

Last year, Southern Miss finished last in C-USA in 2018 with a 19-36, 8-16 in C-USA and had missed the conference tournament for the second year in a row. Southern Miss finished the season 30-22 which is the program’s first 30-win season since 2016.

“I love the expectations that everyone has for this program,” Hogue said. “Those expectations are always such a privilege because it hasn’t always been like that over these five years. It’s a good time to be a Golden Eagle and I think the future is extremely bright.”

In addition, the Golden Eagles picked up multiple conference accolades. Abby Trahan won conference pitcher of the year and was selected as First Team All-Conference, while Sumerlin and Brown were also selected as First Team All-Conference and Karley Nichols selected as Second Team All-Conference.

Looking ahead

Southern Miss graduates three players from the program which were all starters. The program loses four-year starting catcher Samantha Papp, second baseman Chase Nelson who finished the year a .315 average which was fourth best for the team. The team also loses first baseman Sarah Van Schaik who was third on the team in batting average posting a .318.

However, the team returns its top two home run hitters of Brown and Sumerlin who each finished with nine on the year with the two posting the best batting averages of .350 and .333, respectively. Most importantly, the team will return its entire pitching staff which led the conference with a 2.33 ERA.

“These kids bought into a program that was on its way to the top,” Hogue said. “I challenged these underclassmen after the game to not lower the bar, continue to raise it, step up to expectations. The youth on this team [and] the experience its good stuff. I think it’s a great mix I think anyone who runs into Southern Miss softball next year better look out.”