Regional berth 9th straight for USM

HATTIESBURG – Southern Miss punched its ticket to a school record ninth consecutive NCAA Regional on Monday, and will begin its road to Omaha in a familiar place and against a familiar rival.
Southern Miss, which reached the College World Series two years ago coming out of Atlanta, will make a return trip this weekend to open play against Mississippi State in the first postseason game between the rivals.
Southern Miss (39-16), the No. 2 seed and Mississippi State (34-23) the third seed, open play on Friday at 2 p.m. while top-seed Georgia Tech (40-19) will battle No. 4 seed Austin Peay (33-22) at 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series against Southern Miss 75-36, including a 5-4 win at Trustmark Park on April 5.
“We certainly would have loved to be at home for the regional but we did not do enough at the end of the season to hold it,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “But I am proud that we’re not one of the 236 Division I teams that’s not involved. We are in the 64-team field and in order to reach College World Series in Omaha, this is where you have to start.
“Plus, we will play a Mississippi State ball club that beat us 5-4 in Trustmark Park. So they are familiar with us and we are with them. From a fan base standpoint, this will be a heavily attended baseball game.”
Southern Miss junior infielder B.A. Vollmuth said he would have preferred to be at Pete Taylor Park, but is thankful for a regional appearance.
“We are going back to a familiar place,” Vollmuth said. “We won there two years ago on our way to Omaha. We did not play our best at the end of the year but if we come out and swing the bat like we did last time we played in Atlanta, we will be fine.
“The good thing is, we know what it takes to win in Atlanta. We know what to expect from our fans showing up to support us. It’s not a home game, but it is a familiar place for us.”
As far as playing Mississippi State, Vollmuth pointed back to the game in Pearl when the Bulldogs rallied for the win.
“We only had one game against them this year and they beat us,” he said. “We want a little revenge and get them back from earlier this year. That game has been in the back of our minds.
“Everybody is 0-0 now. It does not matter what we did or what they have done to this point. Our goal is to make it back to Omaha and if we play like we are capable of, we can.”
n Regional schedule, Page 2B

Al Jones/Sun-Herald (MCT)