Going 4-0 this week would be something that Southern Miss both needs and wants. Well, they have a golden opportunity to do so, pun VERY intended.
After a road victory at Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday, Southern Miss gets to come back to the friendly confines of Pete Taylor Park, home of the “Pete Taylor Park Magic.” This weekend, the Golden Eagles welcome in the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders for a Conference USA three-game series.
Southern Miss (25-11 overall) sits a half-game back of first place Florida Atlantic with a 10-4 record. The Eagles are not having a bad season by any means, but are just going through an inconsistent stretch. Tuesday night’s win gave Southern Miss its second in a row. Before that, they had not had back-to-back wins in quite some time, going 5-5 in a 10 game stretch alternating wins and losses. Southern Miss has not lost a C-USA series, but they also have not had a three-game sweep either. Because of this stretch, their RPI has dipped into the 50’s and it seems that hosting a regional may be out of the question. Some regional projections even have USM as a 3-seed.
For much of Southern Miss’ season, its starters have fared pretty well, but it is the bullpen that has been shaky. Last week, the roles reversed as the starters underperformed in losses to Ole Miss and FIU, but the bullpen did great. The offense has been pretty sporadic as well, but when the Eagles hit, they hit a lot and very well. If they are to sweep this series against Middle Tennessee, the starting pitchers will need to pitch as long as they can and the relievers will need to step up against a lineup that has been known to score. If the pitching staff can hold on their end, the Southern Miss hitters will provide enough run support to win.
Now, the Blue Raiders are no pushover by any means. MTSU is currently 20-17-1 with wins over West Virginia, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt and as mentioned before, they have an offense that can score. The Middle Tennessee lineup has scored 238 runs this season, which is second behind Southern Miss in C-USA. While their offense can score, their pitching gives up a lot too, as they are last in the conference with a 5.81 ERA.
This series against MTSU is extremely important in both the national spotlight, as well as Conference USA. The good news is that Southern Miss is back at home, where they are 16-4 this season. Baseball is a funny game and the season can get long, so expecting Southern Miss to win every game is ridiculous, but the Golden Eagles should and need to sweep Middle Tennessee. The combination of the potent Southern Miss offense and the struggling Blue Raider pitching is enough to convince me of a Golden Eagle sweep, but I also believe the Southern Miss pitching steps up being back home in Hattiesburg.
Location: Pete Taylor Park
Times: Friday, Apr. 20, 2018 – 6 pm CT
Saturday, Apr. 21, 2018 – 2 pm CT
Sunday, Apr. 22, 2018 – 1 pm CT