The mystique…the allure…the drama. All the great notable stories in sports have those qualities. They are are the legends and the lore. The unmistakable factor that brings everything together in one epic battle that will go down in history as another incredible chapter is written history and strong tradition of excellence that is Southern Miss baseball.
For the Golden Eagle players, it may just be another day on the diamond, grinding away for the black and gold faithful, but it seems as though the stars have aligned this season as they have captured lightning in a bottle for one of the most dramatic, exciting seasons that will be heralded for years to come. All the elements are there to make for an unforgettable documentary on how strong coaching, teamwork, and love for the game can bring a community and state together as the Golden Eagles pursue the ultimate goal in collegiate baseball — punching their ticket to Omaha to fight for the coveted title of College World Series champions.
Even the top producers in Hollywood could not have composed this eloquent script of adversity, emotion, determination, and grit that would make the Duke himself proud. It is that dogged fortitude that has kept the Golden Eagle baseball team fighting to see another day on the diamond. While many people discounted them early on in the season, they never hung their heads and gave up. They continued to push through any and all struggles. It is that teamwork — that dedication and devotion to their comrades and their coaches — that have led the Golden Eagles to preserve, leading them into their second consecutive Super Regional as just two more wins stand between them and another trip to Omaha.
But this devotion, dedication to teamwork, and their “never say die” attitude is nothing new to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. It is what the baseball program has been built on, and this year’s team of scrappy and hard-working players is bringing that determined resolve to their own chapter in the annals of the program’s history.
“This team has worked exceptionally hard since last August when we reported for school,” head coach Scott Berry said. “The accomplishments we’ve achieved thus far can be attributed to focus, commitment, and leadership from within. They have proven to be resilient in handling difficult times and applying those experiences to future opportunities. They are a tough group who hates to lose more than they like to win.”
It is the leadership of Berry and his staff which has molded these young men into not only accomplished athletes but also outstanding citizens. In a baseball program that has only touted four head coaches in its history, the standard of excellence in character and performance is unquestionably high. Any head coach that has taken over the helm at Southern Miss is well versed in the history of the program and is expected to bring great stability and respect to his role, and Berry has done just that.
“Coach Berry will leave a deep long-lasting legacy at Southern Miss,” assistant coach Christian Ostrander said. “Words can’t explain what he means to this baseball program and University. He has the ability to make everyone feel important and appreciated no matter the setting. The way Coach has connected the community and fans with this baseball program is unbelievable! One of the biggest traits that a great leader possesses is the ability to connect. Coach certainly does that with his players and the community and it shows.”
Thus, leading to another climax in this dramatic saga as Coach Berry announced that he will be stepping down as head coach after this season. This is his swan song for the Golden Eagles as he leads his team out onto the diamond at Pete Taylor Park this weekend. To endear his mark on the history of Southern Miss baseball, the Golden Eagle players want nothing more than to send their beloved head coach out in grand fashion which will be no small feat as the University of Tennessee stands in the way of sending their commander to the College World Series.
This is where the intangibles of the legacy and lore of Southern Miss baseball come into play. “The Pete” has its own type of mystique and unmistakable magic that always arises to give the Golden Eagles the advantage. The New York Yankees have “the ghosts” that come out to help them in times of need, and no different, the Golden Eagles have their own angels in the outfield that watch over the black and gold any time they hit the diamond at Pete Taylor Park. Berry has previously stated that he knows beloved former coach Corkey Palmer is always looking down with a smile.
Southern Miss also brings another huge asset to its arsenal — an impossibly strong force that makes The Pete one of the most dreaded places for opponents to enter. Other major teams have their own weapons of defense. The Boston Red Sox have the Green Monster. The Mississippi State Bulldogs have the Left Field Lounge. But none of those can compare to Southern Miss’ Right Field Roost. The Roost incites fear and dread in opponents while offering a never-ending roar of support for their beloved Golden Eagles.
The brainchild of the legendary former Southern Miss baseball head coach Hill Denson, the Right Field Roost is like a tailgate party inside the park filled with some of the rowdiest and most devoted Golden Eagle fans around. In his early days as coach, the concept of the Roost was started with 10 parking spots for trucks to pull in to watch the games from the hill overlooking the right field, but that has grown to almost 70 of the most coveted spots in college baseball.
“The demand for more spots just really shot up through the years, and spots in the Roost have become quite a commodity,” Denson said. “Now, you can’t even buy one of the locations. People leave their spots in the Roost in their wills to family and friends. That devotion and support are just so great to see for our program.”
The fan factor is an immense force in Pete Taylor Park and should never be taken lightly. Denson has always loved the cozy atmosphere at the park as fans are close to the action, and their support is a definite lift to the team in tense situations.
“Opponents always hate to come into Pete Taylor to play because the fans are basically right there on the players, and they bring this incredible energy and amazing atmosphere to the games. But we are always good sports. The fans out in the Roost might dog players all night, but they’ll offer them a chicken leg or hamburger after the game,” Denson said with a laugh.
Berry is also a strong believer in the power of the Roost and and understands the unmistakable force fans bring to the Golden Eagles. For Berry and staff, the black and gold faithful create an atmosphere like none other in the world of college baseball.
“The Right Field Roost has its own identity,” Berry said. “This area holds the most avid fans in college baseball. I describe it as people who tailgate inside the fence. Their love and passion can be felt in every game we play. Southern Miss Baseball and its fans are like one big family.”
The Golden Eagle nation is not a force to be reckoned with, and it is that consistently loud love and support that they bring to their beloved baseball team that gives the Golden Eagles an almost unfair advantage. Southern Miss fans are like the tenth man on the field and can easily help turn the tide in tight games and give their team a huge lift in any battle. Their steadfast loyalty and support are not lost on the Southern Miss coaching staff and players.
“The fans and environment at The Pete are second to none and a huge, huge advantage to our boys,” Ostrander said. “Our fan base creates a home-field advantage on the road as well. You just don’t know how much that helps and fires up our guys. It’s special! The program would not be where it is today without the fans and community. To be 9th in the nation in attendance tells you all you need to know.”
Now, the field is set for one of the most incredible and exciting shootouts in the world of college baseball. As the first pitch is thrown at Pete Taylor Park for Berry’s final home stand, it will be the combined efforts of a scrappy, talented team and the loud, endearing support of the black and gold faithful that will help these Golden Eagles accomplish their goal of getting their ticket to the College World Series.
The road to Omaha goes through Baseburg, indeed. SMTTT!