Golden Eagles come up just short
By By Robby Atkinson / staff writer
June 9, 2004
The University of Southern Mississippi had a historic baseball season for the program in 2004, but the Golden Eagles came up short in a bid to reach the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
USM ended the season with a 45-19 record. The 45 victories are the second-most wins in school history and head coach Corky Palmer said he is excited about the future of his program.
The Golden Eagles, who won the Conference USA championship last season, tied for second place in the league this season. USM was runner-up for the Conference USA tournament championship losing to TCU 3-1 in the title game.
The Golden Eagles also broke team records for hits (718) and runs (457), and ended the season with the second-most home runs (90).
The 40-plus wins and a strong showing in the conference tournament, earned Southern Miss the No. 2 seed in the Baton Rouge (La.) regional. USM opened the regional with a 6-5 win over College of Charleston.
Eagles junior Jarred Hoffpauir delivered a two-run double against the Cougars to tie the game at five, and Ryan Frith scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch in the opening-round victory.
USM fell in two games on the second day of the regional to be eliminated from the NCAA baseball tournament. The Eagles lost to LSU 6-2 in their first game last Saturday, and they lost a rematch with the College of Charleston 7-3 in an elimination game.
Hoffpauir led USM in the loss to LSU with a 2-for-4 performance and had a pair of hits in the loss to College of Charleston. Hoffpauir was named to the All-Regional team.
The Eagles junior ended the season with 109 hits, breaking Michael Artman's single-season record of 106. Hoffpauir also became the first player at USM to reach the 90-RBI mark, with 92 this season.
The biggest question mark will be if Hoffpauir will return for his senior season in Hattiesburg. Hoffpauir was drafted on Monday in the sixth round by St. Louis Cardinals.
Junior Matt Shepard also put up big numbers in 2004, and it is unknown if Shepard will return for his senior campaign at USM. He was selected in the eighth round by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Shepard ended the season with a .374 batting average and was second on the team in hits with 104.
The biggest loses from the 2004 team will be Ryan Frith, closer Austin Tubb, left fielder Carlos Velasquez and relievers Ray Antonelli and Adam Smith to graduation.
Frith was drafted on Monday by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 17th round. He led the Eagles with 22 home runs and collected 63 RBIs this year.
Sophomore Marc Maddox will be the one of the top returning starters next season at first base. Maddox had 16 home runs and 60 RBIs.