USM Eagles flying high into C-USA Tourney
By By Jared Florreich / staff writer
May 21, 2003
The 2003 Southern Mississippi baseball season has been one to remember. USM finished with an overall record of 41-14, 23-7 in C-USA, setting a new C-USA record in wins.
With one more victory, Southern Miss will tie the school record in wins with 42, set in 1990, and matched in 1991. The Eagles wrapped up the regular season C-USA title last weekend by winning two games last weekend at Houston.
Southern Mississippi is ranked 15th in the latest Baseball America poll, marking the school's highest ever baseball ranking.
The Eagles became the first team in C-USA to win nine C-USA series' in a season, and join Houston, Tulane, and South Florida as the only teams to win the C-USA regular season title.
Southern Miss is the number one seed in the C-USA tournament beginning Wednesday at Turchin Field in New Orleans. USM's previous highest seeding was third in 1996, 1999, 2000.
The Eagles face eighth seeded Charlotte (21-26, 11-15 in C-USA) in game two of the C-USA tournament Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. USM won two of three when the 49ers visited Pete Taylor Park April 11-13.
USM leads C-USA in hitting with a .318 average. The team has recorded 615 hits, and lead C-USA with 426 runs, 76 home runs, 389 RBIs, 989 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .512,
Southern Miss also leads C-USA in pitching with a 3.72 team ERA. In 485.2 innings, the USM pitchers have held their opponents to a .262 batting average, allowing 489 hits and 259 runs, while striking out 399. The Eagles lead C-USA with 17 saves.
The Eagles have the third best fielding percentage in C-USA with .968. They Eagles have turned a C-USA best 62 double plays.
Individual offensive leaders for the Eagles include the one-two punch of centerfielder Jeff Cook and rightfielder Clint King. Cook and King both hit 20 home runs on the season, leading USM and C-USA. They are the first C-USA teammates to accomplish the feat since 1999. King and Cook are one-two in C-USA in total bases with 168 and 164 respectively.
King leads the team with a .397 average and is second overall in C-USA. He leads the Eagles with 87 hits, 168 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .767 that leads C-USA.
Cooks has the second highest average at .376, good for fifth in C-USA. He leads USM with 63 runs scored, 66 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases. Cook had an 18 game hitting streak for USM, the longest of the season. Cook has been named C-USA hitter of the week four times, becoming the first player in C-USA history to accomplish the feat.
Cook broke several Southern Miss records this season. He became the USM's career leader in home runs with 47, passing Fred Cooley's mark of 45. He has scored 192 runs and recorded 214 hits, both USM records.
Catcher Brad Willcutt leads USM with 20 doubles and is tied for the C-USA lead. Shortstop Matt Shepard leads the Eagles with four triples.
USM head baseball coach Corky Palmer said it's been a thrilling season.
Anthony Dewitt posted a 3.40 ERA to lead the starting pitchers. He recorded eight wins against only two losses, striking out 46 in 79.1 innings of work.
Bob McCrory posted a team high in wins with nine, after missing the part of the season recovering from a broken hand. He finished with a 4.32 ERA, striking out 70 in 77 innings of work. Cliff Russum, 6-5 on the year, recorded a 3.93 ERA and pitched three complete games. He leads the Eagles with 71 strikeouts. Stephen Castleman recorded a 4.50 ERA, finishing the year with a 7-2 record. He pitched a team high 84 innings.
The USM bullpen has been on of the best in C-USA. Austin Tubb posted a 2-1 record and 1.08 ERA. He leads the Eagles with eight saves. Ray Antonelli finished with a 3-0 mark and 1.81 ERA. He has pitched 54.2 innings in relief, recording 55 strikeouts, and five saves. John Nicholas posted a 4-1 record and 2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings of work. Daniel Best pitched 31.2 innings, recording a 2-0 record and 3.98 ERA.
Palmer, named 2003 C-USA coach of the year, said the Eagles are still in the mix to host a regional, and the team is mindful of that fact.
The remainder of Wednesday's C-USA tournament first round matchups:
Defending C-USA tournament champions East Carolina got the fifth seed and will take on fourth seeded Houston at 9 a.m. Seventh seeded Louisville plays second seeded TCU at 4 p.m., and Sixth seeded South Florida plays third seeded Tulane at 7:30 p.m.
USM's Pete Taylor Park was named host of the 2005 C-USA baseball tournament. Pete Taylor Park was the site of the first C-USA baseball tournament, held in 1996.
Jeff Cook and Clint King were named first team All C-USA Conference USA. Brad Willcutt and Bob McCrory were named to the C-USA second team and Marc Maddox was named to the all-freshman team.