Even the old timers in Ruston aren’t sure if they can remember a bigger conference weekend baseball series at JC Love Field at Pat Patterson Park than the one set to start tonight and run through Sunday.
No. 13 ranked Louisiana Tech (24-7, 10-2 C-USA) will host an often-ranked Southern Miss (21-10, 8-3 C-USA) as the top two teams in the West Division square off for the second time this season. The Golden Eagles are receiving votes, close to cracking several top 25s.
Friday’s opener is set for 6 p.m. while Saturday’s doubleheader is slated for 2 p.m. Sunday’s finale is set for 1 p.m. All four games can be seen with a paid subscription to CUSA.tv.
Tech won three out of four in Hattiesburg just three weeks ago, but Bulldog skipper Lane Burroughs knows that match-ups five through eight between the two programs will be epic and weird at the same time.
“It is different playing a team eight times,” Burroughs said. “It feels like pro ball a little bit. It is kind of different that we’re playing them eight times in a year, and you don’t have to break down video as much going into the series because we’ve seen them. We’ve seen all their starters and most of their relievers.
“The one thing you do look at, however, is that they haven’t lost (a conference game) since we played them. They’re playing really well, and we know they’re going to come in ready to go. If you want to be the true champion and a true competitor, I don’t know if there would be any other way you’d want it.”
Southern Miss swept three games on the road against UTSA before taking all four at home against UAB last weekend. The Golden Eagles did drop a mid-week match-up 4-0 against South Alabama Tuesday night.
The two programs are a big reason why Conference USA baseball is so loaded this year along with Top 25 teams Old Dominion and Charlotte in the East Division.
“I coached at Southern Miss in the old Conference USA, and it was always such a competitive league,” said Burroughs. “Conference USA has always been a great baseball league. There has always been good coaches, players and teams.
“It’s obvious that Charlotte and ODU are good, and Southern Miss should be ranked, too. That’s the way you want it. We want our league to be one of the best in the country, and right now I think we’re a four-bid league. If you get to that point, you’re getting a lot of respect as a league baseball wise. We want as many teams as we can get in the postseason, and we’re trending that way. The league is playing really well.”
The Bulldogs are being touted by every college baseball publication as a regional host if the season ended today. A series win over Southern Miss this weekend would only solidify Tech’s position among the elite teams this season.
Southern Miss leads the all-time series 25-13 although the two teams have split the past 10 meetings. USM did sweep a three-game series in Ruston in 2019.
Tonight’s match-up pits two of the top arms in college baseball with Bulldog lefty Jonathan Fincher (6-0, 1.35 ERA) against Southern Miss righty Hunter Stanley (5-1, 2.09 ERA).