On Wednesday, Trustmark Park, home of the Mississippi Braves, becomes home to the Conference USA Baseball Tournament.
Eight of C-USA's best baseball teams descend on Pearl in hopes of securing the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Baseball Tournament. One of the co-favorites of the tournament is the University of Southern Mississippi (38-15 overall, 16-8 conference), looking to defend its 2010 crown.
The other co-favorite is Houston, Texas-based Rice University (38-18 overall, 16-8 conference),No. 1 seed of the tournament. Rice became number one by taking two of three games against USM in the final regular season series. The series victory allowed the Owls to own the tiebreaker over the Golden Eagles.
USM and Rice both finished conference play with identical 16-8 records,, and Rice and USM were named co-conference regular season champions. In the 16-year history of C-USA, this is the first time teams have shared the regular season title.
The other teams joining Rice and USM in Pearl are: (seed)
No. 3, East Carolina Pirates (ECU) 37-18 overall 14-10 conference
No. 4 University Central Florida Knights (UCF) 36-20 overall 12-12 conference
No. 5 Memphis Tigers (UM) 29-25 overall 12-12 conference
No. 6 Houston Cougars (UH) 25-30 overall 12-12 conference
No. 7 Tulane Green Wave (TU) 30-24 overall 10-14 conference
No. 8 University Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (UAB) 28-26 overall 9-15 conference
The format for the C-USA tournament is different from other tournaments. Unlike the double elimination-style SEC Tournament, the C-USA tournament is a round robin.The eight teams are split into two, four-team pods. Pod one features the one, four, five and eight seeds (Rice, UCF, Memphis, and UAB). Pod two features the two, three, six and seven seeds (USM, ECU, Houston, and Tulane). All eight teams are guaranteed three games each, meaning each team plays the other teams in its pod once.
The top teams from each pod meet in the C-USA Championship game Saturday night. Whoever emerges as the victor of the championship game earns the conference's automatic bid.
USM earned its first regular-season championship since 2003 and entered the tournament on a one-game win streak. The Golden Eagles went 5-4 against teams in their pod.
Southern Miss won two out of three games against ECU and Tulane but lost two out of three games to Houston. The Golden Eagles have the second-best batting average (.305) in the conference behind Memphis (.306).
Only ECU (2.57) and Rice (3.18) have a better ERA than USM (3.48). Southern Miss leads the nation with 73 double plays made.
USM has led the nation in double plays the in each of the last two years. Tyler Koelling is the Golden Eagles top batter with a .367 batting average and with four homeruns and 46 RPIs.
The Southern Miss pitching staff is led by C-USA Pitcher of the Year Todd McInnis. USM's golden arm, McInnis, has a 2.79 ERA with 73 strikeouts and a 7-2 record. He is fourth on the all-time C-USA win list with 32 career victories.
Entering his second year at the helm of the USM program, head coach Barry Scott has compiled a 74-39 overall record. Scott led the Golden Eagles to their first tournament title last season, the first time since 2003.
JFP Sports will be covering the C-USA Tournament live each day of the tournament. C-USA and SEC Tournament updates will be posted at the end of each day.
You can get all tournament updates by following @jfpsports on twitter. Below is the complete C-USA Tournament Schedule:
Wednesday, May 25
Game 1: (5) Memphis vs. (4) UCF, 9 a.m
Game 2: (8) UAB vs. (1) Rice, 12:30 p.m.
Game 3: (6) Houston vs. (3) East Carolina, 4 p.m.
Game 4: (7) Tulane vs. (2) Southern Miss, 7:30p
Thursday, May 26 (all games televised by CSS)
Game 5: (4) UCF vs. (8) UAB, 9 a.m.
Game 6: (5) Memphis vs. (1) Rice, 12:30 p.m.
Game 7: (7) Tulane vs. (3) East Carolina, 4 p.m.
Game 8: (6) Houston vs. (2) Southern Miss, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 27
Game 9: (5) Memphis vs. (8) UAB, 9 a.m.
Game 10: (4) UCF vs. (1) Rice, 12:30 p.m.
Game 11: (6) Houston vs. (7) Tulane, 4 p.m.
Game 12: (3) East Carolina vs. (2) Southern Miss, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 28 (televised by CBS Sports Network)
Championship Game: 7 p.m.
Conference USA announces 2011 Baseball Awards and All-Conference team.
Southern Miss took home two awards as pitcher Todd McInnis was named Pitcher of the Year and head coach Scott Berry was named KEITH LeCLAIR COACH OF THE YEAR.
USM placed five players on the first team All-Conference squad. Those players are:
B.A. Vollmuth, Jr., Infielder
Marc Bourgeois, Sr., Outfielder
Tyler Koelling, Sr., Outfielder
Todd McInnis, Sr., Pitcher
Geoffrey Thomas, So., Pitcher
The Golden Eagles also placed two players on the second All-Conference squad. Those players are:
Adam Doleac, Sr., Infielder
Collin Cargill, Jr., Pitcher
USM also placed one player on the All-Freshman team. Catcher Jared Bales was named to the freshman team.
- Bryan Flynn
As I said last night, lets go support the C-USA Tournament. Here is why:
- Bryan Flynn
The only awards that matter to me right now is the one Hines Ward, a Steeler, won on Dancing with the Stars last night, the one the Steelers will win in February 2012 after the next Super Bowl game, and the one the Miami Heat will win later on this year. According to Big Ben the Steelers rule on the dance floor, gridiron fields and the bedroom or bathroom as it was in the last case. Go Steelers!