5P Primer: Southern Miss
An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's next opponent: Southern Miss Golden Eagles
PRESENTING: The University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. Surprisingly decent historically in College Baseball circuit, the Eagles have been to the NCAA Tournament 7 times. Last year USM tired on the Cinderella Slipper and made to Omaha for the first time in school history after advancing from the Atlanta Regional and upsetting National Seed Florida in their Super Regional. It was a benchmark for the program that had come close but finally broke through to mid-major threat. They finished the season ranked #27 and this will mark their 8th consecutive NCAA Regional.
PREVIOUSLY: Entering the Conference USA Tournament, Southern Miss was the definition of a “bubble” team. They had a decent RPI for CUSA Standards but honestly needed to win the Tourney (at Rice’s home park) to punch their ticket to the postseason. They did just that. Beating Memphis, Houston, and a very tough Rice team (again, at Rice) for the CUSA title. Auburn is 3-0 all time against Southern Miss historically and have never faced the Golden Eagles in the postseason. The Eagles will travel well, taking the 5 hour drive from Hattiesburg pretty easily, and USM has already sold out their allotment of tickets. Fans are expecting a repeat of 2009 and are a darkhorse pick to take the Regional.
PLAYMAKERS: There are a couple of names to know for USM. B.A. Vollmuth is the best bat in the lineup. The 1st team All-CUSA Shortstop leads the Eagles in Batting Average (.378), Doubles (17), RBI (68), and HRs (18). He lives up the his “B.A.” nickname with a guady .716 slugging %. He’s a preseason All-American and College Baseball Blog clocked him in at #66. Although he saw limited action last year, Vollmuth cemented his status in USM history with his 2 HRs in the NCAA Regional Final Against Georgia Tech last year. He was also a Cape Cod League teammate of Hunter Morris and Brian Fletcher for the Falmouth Commodores.
Also keep an eye on Senior RHP Scott Copeland. The 6’4 Righty from White Oak, TX/Panola CC is undefeated on the season (11-0 in 13 starts) and has 2 complete games and 1 CG/Shutout under his belt. He’s only given up 4 HRs all season. He’s not a K King (64 ks/90.2 ip) and has some control issues (12 HBP on the season). However he is a battler who will pitch deep into games. He sports a 3.38 ERA and opponents are hitting .251 against him.
Pitchers Todd McInnis and Collin Cargill round out the 1st team All-CUSA selections. McInnis is the Eagles Saturday starter and has a 6-5 Record a 3.15 ERA. Cargill is the best arm out of the bullpen with a 1.86 ERA.
PREVIEW: The Eagles are still riding some of the buzz of last year. That’s a huge advantage for them. They won’t come into the Regional scared or nervous. They’ve been here and know what it takes to advance. However, the Eagles have holes. Outside of Copeland, the pitching lacks any type of depth and the bullpen (outside of Cargill) all have +5.00 ERAs. They are also pretty error prone, with Vollmuth having a whopping 24 Errors on the season. However the bats are lively. Every one of the Eagles starters have HR ability and each of their everyday players have at least 4 HRs. Again however, there are holes. Taylor Walker has hit into 11 Double Plays. It will be interesting to see how USM plays their pitching matchups. Do they go McInnis game 1 against Clemson and save Copeland for a potential Championship advancement game? Or do they slot Copeland first and move into a comfy winners bracket. Well that has already been decided. Copeland is going day 1.
“My game plan is to let the defense do their job. I will throw sinkers and let then make the plays behind me. I have been able to do it all year, so why not this weekend?’’
PREDICTION: The Eagles can makes some noise but when Auburn would face them in the Tournament, the Tigers would have the advantage. Copeland will be done and that leaves McEnnis and a spotty bullpen to make up the rest of the field. I like Auburn’s chances.