Scott Berry's Golden Eagles were fitted for Conference USA rings today. The process towards bigger rings in Omaha will begin at home. There was a party this morning at Mugshots in Hattiesburg. Southern Miss players, coaches, and fans found out that Mississippi State, South Alabama, and Illinois-Chicago are coming to The Pete.
Conference USA Player of the Year Dylan Burdeaux said the fun began last night after the C-USA title game. "We all kinda got together and watched the facebook live, and it was so awesome seeing our name pop up. Yeah, it's definitely hard, you only have 16 teams out of 300 that get to do it. I definitely think it's a statement to how hard we worked all year, and how well we played."
USM is hosting NCAA games for the first time in 14 years. You only have to go back a month or two to when the Golden Eagles last played Mississippi State or South Alabama.
Head coach Scott Berry met the press after firing up the black and gold fanbase at the watch party. "Everybody's got a new sense of urgency about themselves. This is a whole new season for everybody. 64 people trying to be one of the 8 standing in Omaha. So we're familiar with Mississippi State as they are with us. Same way with South Alabama. We'll scramble to try to get reports on Illinois-Chicago just like they are on us."
Oak Grove product Taylor Braley is thrilled to play postseason ball at home. "Mississippi State, there's a lot of Mississippi State fans around here too, so they're going to be coming here. It's really not that far to travel. It's going to be a lot of fun, I think it's going to be pretty packed."
Taylor is one of several veterans that missed out on Super Regionals last year. That Tallahassee memory and playing at home in Hattiesburg are easy sources of motivation.
Kirk McCarty has 10 wins on the mound this season. "We've got a lot of guys that have been here before, and that's something that we couldn't say for last year's team. I think it was everyone's first regional experience. So a lot of guys have been through this, they know what it's like, they know what the pressure, the atmosphere that we're going to be playing under. This weekend was a good stepping stone for what we're going to have this Friday at Pete Taylor Park."
USM opens the Hattiesburg Regional Friday at 1:00pm versus Horizon League champion Illinois-Chicago. You can watch the game online at ESPN3.com
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