June 7, 2009

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Around the Super Regionals

Golden Eagles Make Most of Opportunity

CBI Staff Reports


Southern Miss was one of the last at-large teams to make the NCAA baseball tournament. That fact is not lost on the Golden Eagles, who have made it a running joke.


“They shouldn’t have let us in, they shouldn’t have let us in,” shortstop Brian Dozier told the USM radio crew has been the ongoing wise crack the past two weeks.


Added fellow senior Bo Davis: “That’s been our motto the whole time.”


The NCAA committee did, and now the Golden Eagles remarkably are headed to Omaha to play in the College World Series.


Southern Miss rallied from a 6-1 deficit Sunday night, scoring three times in the bottom of the eighth, to stun Florida 7-6 and capture the Gainesville Super Regional two games to none. With it, the Golden Eagles turned their first Super Regional appearance into their first trip to Omaha.


“This is so awesome; this is truly amazing,” Dozier said in an on-field radio interview moments after USM closed out the Gators.


Joey Archer (2 for 4, 3 RBI) drilled a two-run single to left center with one out in the eighth off Gators closer Billy Bullock to tie it at 6. With the game-winning run on third, Tyler Koelling then hit a shot up the middle where Gators shortstop Mike Mooney fielded and touched second for the force. But Archer, running on the pitch, arrived at second just as Mooney was touching the bag, forcing a quick throw that Preston Tucker couldn’t pick at first and Southern Miss had a 7-6 edge.


Collin Cargill, who closed out Georgia Tech twice in the Regionals, did the same to the Gators, getting a 5-4-3 double play to end it. A huge Southern Miss crowd then, which was loud throughout, then made McKethan Stadium sound even more like Hill Denson Field at Pete Taylor Park back in Hattiesburg, Miss.


“It was unbelievable,” said Golden Eagles coach Corky Palmer, who will retire after the season, in an on-field interview with the USM radio broadcast. “There are too many heroes to name. Everybody had a hand the last three weeks.”


Palmer called it the “greatest win,” not necessarily because it sent USM to Omaha, but because “things didn’t look good.”


The Gators built a 6-1 lead in the third inning, boosted by homers from Brandon McArthur (2 for 4, 3 RBI) and Tucker (2 for 2, 2 R, RBI).


 But along came Scott Copeland, who entered with a 1-5 record and a 6.81 ERA. The junior tossed three innings of one-hit ball with two strikeouts to pick up his second win – and give Southern Miss a chance to come back.


And come back the Golden Eagles did, showing the fight they showed in rallying past Elon in the first game of the Regionals and slugging past Georgia Tech to move on.


“Unbelievable,” USM athletic director Richard Giannini said on the field over the radio. “It is the greatest thing that has ever happened to our university.”


Senior Michael Ewing said on the field after the game that going to Omaha is “something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.” He added that he’s had opportunities to go with a friend, but “I had to tell him no…I always wanted to go there first as a player.”


Now, Ewing and the rest of the Golden Eagles, who slipped into the NCAA field on Memorial Day, will get that chance.


“We squeaked in, and we never gave up hope and kept plugging away,” Ewing said. “And thankfully it’s paying off for us.”