2023 College Top 25 Preview: No. 21 Southern Mississippi
Last season: 47-19 (23-7 in Conference USA), lost in super regionals
Final ranking: No. 16
Coach (record at school): Scott Berry (482-256-1, 13 seasons)
The good news: Southern Miss is coming off an outstanding season that saw it win the Conference USA title, host regionals and super regionals and win a regional for the first time since 2009. Most of that team returns, especially in the lineup, where the Golden Eagles have six regulars back. Those returners are led by shortstop Dustin Dickerson, the team’s leading hitter, and first baseman Christopher Sargent, who led the team with 21 home runs. Southern Miss’ lineup isn’t just experienced, it should also be one of the oldest in the country, as all nine projected starters are in at least their third year of college baseball and five are in their fifth year. Southern Miss excelled on the mound in 2022, ranking second in the country to only Tennessee in team ERA (3.29), and All-American righthander Tanner Hall is back to lead the rotation after spending the summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team.
The bad news: While Hall is back to lead the Golden Eagles’ rotation, they have a lot to replace on the mound. Friday starter Hunter Riggins graduated, and fellow starter Hurston Waldrep transferred to Florida. Southern Miss also had five relievers drafted, including closer Landon Harper. Pitching has been one of the Golden Eagles’ strengths under pitching coach Christian Ostrander and they have the talent to rebuild the staff. Look for righthanders Matthew Adams and Niko Mazza to take on bigger roles, and Dickerson is expected to also pitch this year in addition to his duties at shortstop. Still, some regression from last year’s heights is to be expected. In addition to the personnel changes, Southern Miss also must acclimate to playing in a new conference as it moves from its longtime home of C-USA to the Sun Belt, which suddenly looks like a rugged baseball league.
Player to know: Tanner Hall, RHP.
Hall was one of college baseball’s breakout stars of 2022. After going 1-1, 5.02 in 18 games as a freshman in 2021, he became the Golden Eagles’ Saturday starter and flourished. He last spring went 9-3, 2.81 with 146 strikeouts and 14 walks in 109 innings and was named C-USA pitcher of the year. After so much turnover on the pitching staff, Hall will be asked to lead the way in 2023. He attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball and a quality changeup, with his command perhaps standing out most of all.
Path to Omaha: If Southern Miss is to make its first trip to Omaha since 2009, it will be up to the new-look pitching staff coming together to push the Golden Eagles forward. Their experienced lineup will help carry the weight, but Southern Miss rose to the heights it did last year because of a special pitching staff. Replacing not just Riggins and Waldrep, but also some of the top arms in the bullpen, will be critical. The offense must also do its part, however, as it is still smarting from getting shut out in a home super regional. Those experienced hitters must show they can take a step forward against the top pitchers on their schedule.
Four Of A Kind? Examining The Candidates For The No. 1 Pick In the 2023 Draft
Just how good is this fearsome foursome? How much separation is there between them and how do the players compare and contrast with one another?
|2B||Gabe Lacy||R-Sr.||Transfer—Tennessee Tech|
|OF||Matt Etzel||Jr.||Transfer—Panola (Texas) JC|
|RP||Dustin Dickerson||R-Jr.||Did not pitch|