Golden Eagles Advance to NCAA Tournament in Back-to-Back Seasons
for the Second Time in School History; Finish Year With Second-Best Mark in School History ( 45-19)
The 2004 Golden Eagle base- ball team had a tough act to
follow, thanks to the unprecedented success of the 2003 squad that
finished with a school-record 47-16
record overall, a league-record
23-7 conference mark and finished
as the runner-up in the NCAA
Hattiesburg Regional Tournament.
Southern Miss’ 2004 season
opened with a 15-2 mark heading into Conference USA action,
including sweeps over Northwestern (La.) State,
Louisiana Tech, Eastern Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe, as well as a dramatic win over McNeese
State in 10 innings and the victory over Big 12
power Oklahoma State.
Forever remembered in many Golden Eagle
minds was Cliff Russum’s 15-strikeout no-hitter
against Eastern Illinois in game two of the series,
the 21-5 win over Oklahoma State in the Lake Area
Classic where Golden Eagle bats pounded Cowboy
pitchers for 21 runs and 25 hits and the win over
McNeese State, when 10th-inning heroics provided
by Beau Griffin’s solo homer led the Golden Eagles
to victory and the classic championship.
The team began its C-USA title defense against
Houston, winning two of the three games, including another dramatic ninth-inning win in game
three. Southern Miss then defeated No. 5 Ole
Miss in Hattiesburg, using a game-winning hit
from Jarrett Hoffpauir in the ninth inning to take
an 8-7 victory in front of a school-record 4,673
fans in attendance.
From there, the Golden Eagles used a conference
series win at USF, sweeps of TCU and Saint Louis and
then a second conference series win over Memphis to
improve to 29-7 overall and 12-3 in Conference USA.
Then, Southern Miss defeated the No. 6 Rebels for the
second time, winning 8-4, at Oxford.
Following a disappointing series at Tulane,
Southern Miss quickly cured its blues, when Jody
Blount blasted a three-run bomb to left center to
defeat No. 9 Ole Miss in Jackson, 6-3, to finish
the season sweep of the Rebels.
After taking two of three games at UAB,
Southern Miss swept its next two Conference USA
series against Louisville and Charlotte, respectively,
and then closed out the regular season winning
one of the three games against No. 4 East Carolina
to finish 40-15 and claim the No. 3 seed, heading
into the Conference USA Tournament.
After falling to Memphis in the opening game
of the tournament, Southern Miss stormed its way
back to the championship game
with a 16-4 win over Tulane, a
13-0 victory over Memphis and
two dramatic wins over UAB to
advance to the second-straight
Eagles an early 1-0 lead on a solo homer after
the third inning and then took a 2-1 lead in the
fifth inning, before the Tigers struck for four runs
in the seventh inning and one more in the eighth
to defeat Southern Miss, 6-2. The Golden Eagles’
season ended when College of Charleston won
the nightcap, 7-3.
All told, the 2004 Golden Eagle baseball
team finished with the second-best record in
the school’s history, finishing at 45-19 and 21-9
in Conference USA. Southern Miss entered the
national rankings in early March and was ranked
15 weeks during the season, including a school
record No. 11 ranking.
USM hit .319 for the year and blasted 90 home
runs, one more than the year before. Five players
earned various All-American honors, including
Hoffpauir, Ryan Frith, Matt Shepherd, Austin Tubb
and Patrick Ezell. Seven Golden Eagles earned all-conference honors, with a school-record four being
named to Conference USA’s first team, Shepherd,
Hoffpauir, Frith and Tubb.
Hoffpauir had an outstanding season as he was
the toughest player to strikeout in the nation, finishing the season with eight strikeouts and was No. 3
in RBIs with 92. He set school records for hits ( 109)
and RBIs ( 92). Hoffpauir and Shepherd teamed up
to form one of the best double-play combinations
in the nation. Frith blasted 22 home runs, De Witt
posted 10 wins and Tubb finished with eight wins
and 10 saves to become the all-time saves leader in
the school’s history.
Back Row (from left): Austin Tubb, Ryan Frith, Adam Smith, Daniel Best, John Nicholas, Josh Grant, Jody Blount,
Brett Hoeflich, Patrick Ezell, Barry Bowden, Leighton Davis Third Row: George McGovern,
student trainer, Mike Cashion, Anthony De Witt, Cliff Russum, Scott Berry, Associate Head Coach, Allen Winningham,
Volunteer Assistant Coach, Corky Palmer, Head Coach, Lane Burroughs, Assistant Coach, Kevin Coker,
Matt Shepherd, Beau Griffin, Deb Dunn, Certified Athletic Trainer Second Row: Luke Anderson, student manager,
Dane Reiter, Marc Maddox, Tray Gamble, Brad Willcutt, Drew Carson, Casey Summerlin, Nick Valluzzo,
Trey Cuevas, Jake Cobb, student manager Front Row: Eddie Burger, Noah Tritz, Ray Antonelli, Nathan Sanders,
Carlos Velasquez, Chris Matesich, Jason Lowery, Jarrett Hoffpauir.