C-USA heavyweights LA Tech, Southern Miss collide to open league slate

Staff writer

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Arguably the two best baseball teams in Conference USA will square off this weekend when 21st ranked Louisiana Tech travels to Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg for a four-game series against Southern Miss.

Game times for the series are 6 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Saturday’s doubleheader (both 7 inning games) will begin at 2 p.m. All four games can be seen live with a paid subscription to CUSA.tv.

Tech fans can also hear all the action on the LA Tech Sports Network on KNBB 97.7 FM with Dave Nitz providing a call of the games.

Southern Miss (13-6) was picked first in the West Division in the Conference USA Preseason Coaches’ Poll while Louisiana Tech (14-5) was tabbed second. Both teams have proven those predictions right thus far with some bigtime non-conference wins.

Tech has won six straight, including victories of No. 1 Arkansas and No. 4 Ole Miss and a three-game road sweep of Tulane. Southern Miss has won four straight and nine of its last 10, including a 5-4 victory over No. 23 Alabama on Tuesday.

LA Tech head coach Lane Burroughs acknowledged the depth and talent of the Golden Eagles pitching staff, which boasts a team earned run average of 2.91.

Walker Powell (3-1, 1.29 ERA), Hunter Stanley (3-1, 2.64 ERA), Ben Ethridge (1-0, 2.45 ERA) and Drew Boyd (1-2, 4.61 ERA) will get the nod on the mound for Southern Miss this weekend.

“Their pitching numbers are pretty staggering and eye popping,” Burroughs said. “They don’t walk anybody (40) and they have a lot of strikeouts (217). It starts and ends there. You know they are going to throw strikes and it must be swing and miss stuff with those kinds of numbers. They have great arms. It’s an older, mature staff. Their bullpen is really good too. They have been pitching at a high level this year.”

The Bulldog pitching staff hasn’t been any slouch themselves as Tech sports a 3.27 team ERA with 161 strikeouts and only 62 walks. Jonathan Fincher (3-0, 1.50 ERA), Jarrett Whorff (4-1, 2.59 ERA), Ryan Jennings (2-1, 3.33 ERA) and Cade Gibson (1-1, 3.54 ERA) will comprise the starting rotation this weekend.

Burroughs said that there is no time like the present to open league play in a match-up of two of the hottest teams in C-USA.

“I wish we were a little healthier, but it is what it is,” Burroughs said. “I think we have opened league play (against Southern Miss) now three of the five years I’ve been (at LA Tech). You are going to have to play them at some point so it might as well be now.

“We get to play each other eight times this year and there is nothing wrong with opening weekend. We just have to keep doing what we have been doing. It’s just another really good opponent that we are going to play, nothing different than what we have been doing.”

Burroughs, a Mississippi native, was an assistant coach at Southern Miss from 1999-2007. Southern Miss pitching coach Christian Ostrander (2016-2017) and assistant coach Travis Creel (2018-19) both spent time on the Bulldog staff in Ruston.

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