Improbable dream becomes a reality for Golden Eagles

With its dramatic come from behind 7-6 win against Florida Sunday, an improbable dream came true for Southern Miss.

The Golden Eagles, who have reached the Liberty Bowl in football and played in the NCAA Tournament in basketball, took the biggest step in school history with an NCAA super regional win that punched a ticket to the College World Series.

The Golden Eagles baseball team will play for its first national championship starting this weekend in Omaha, and the Corky Palmer retirement tour hits full stride..

The nearly impossible feat wasn’t on the radar a few weeks ago when the Golden Eagles owned a 28-21 record, The start, however, came after Southern Miss opened the season 7-0.

Palmer announced his retirement after 12 years and the Golden Eagles are now playing their best baseball of the season with a 12-3 record in the last 15 games. That includes winning the Atlanta Regional as well as the Gainesville Super Regional over the No. 8 nationally-seeded Gators.

Southern Miss, which leaves for Omaha on Thursday, will face Texas, a 5-2 winner over TCU, on Sunday at 6 p.m. at Rosenblatt Stadium with J.R. Ballinger of East Central on the mound.

”There is something special with this team,” Southern Miss coach Corky Palmer said. “We were down to Georgia Tech (3-0) in the Atlanta Regional and down 6-1 to Florida. The kids never gave up. I have never been around a group of kids that when things god bad, they don’t get down.

”It’s amazing and it’s unbelievable what they have done in the last three weeks.”

In the 7-6 win against Florida, Corey Stevens, the Golden Eagles designated hitter, was ejected in the bottom of the fourth.

Southern Miss was down 6-3. Following a single by Stevens and a double by Joey Archer, pinch hitter Kyle Maxie hit a short fly out to right for the second out.

Stevens then tried to score on a flyball to right, only to be thrown out at the plate without sliding. Instead, Stevens attempted to run over the catcher and was ejected.

Scott Berry, who will replace Palmer at the end of the season, said Stevens can play in the first game of the College World Series because he wasn’t ejected for fighting.

”Corey is good to go,” Berry said. “We’ve been told by the NCAA that he was ejected for that game and that game only. We arer moving forward that he will be our DH in Omaha and Corey is fine.

”This team has no quit. When we lost Brian Dozier with a broken collarbone, we had doubt in our mind, We were pointing fingers and we didn’t handle failure. I saw things take off when the new season began with the conference tournament. Did it play in with coach Palmer retiring? Yes.

”There was a point in the season when we could not have done this. believe when we steo on the fied now, we have a chance to win.”

That Stevens play, in an odd way, sparked the Golden Eagles come back against a Florida team that was 26-7 at home in NCAA tournament play.

With Florida leading 6-4 lead through seven innings, the Golden Eagles jumped on reliever Billy Bullock, who had 11 saves on the season with three runs.

The big blows were a pair singles by Adam Doleac and Archer that followed Bo Davis and James Ewing reaching base with a it by pitch and walk respectively..

”We wanted to lock in in the eighth and get the job done,” Davis, a senior centerfielder said. “Some might call it luck, but this team has never quit. It might sound weird that Southern Miss is going to the College World Series to some, but not to us.”

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(c) 2009, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

USM to face Texas in World Series opener

The game times and pairings for the first two days of the Men’s College World Series have been announced. The 63rd MCWS will be played at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha from June 13-23/24.

The first game on Saturday is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. (CT) and features Arkansas (39-22) and No. 2 national seed Cal St. Fullerton (47-14). Saturday’s second game pits one of two first-time MCWS participants, Virginia (48-13-1), against No.3 national seed LSU (51-16), and is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. (CT)

The doubleheader on Sunday features No. 5 national seed Arizona State (49-12) vs. No. 4 national seed North Carolina (47-16) at 1 p.m. (CT), and the other first-time participant, Southern Miss. (40-24) squaring off against No. 1 national seed Texas (46-14-1) at 6 p.m. (CT)

The losers of Saturday’s two games will play one another at 1 p.m. (CT) on Monday, while Saturday’s winners face off at 6 p.m. (CT) Monday. The losers of Sunday’s games will play each other at 1 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday, while Sunday’s winners meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. (CT)

The winners of the two brackets will play best-of-three championship finals, with the first game set for 6 p.m. (CT) on Monday, June 22. The second game is scheduled for 6 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday, June 23, while the third and deciding game (if necessary) is slated for 6 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, June 24. Every Men’s College World Series game will be televised live by ESPN or ESPN2, and all are available in high-definition.

Al Jones/The Sun Herald (MCT)