Golden Eagles Win Conference USA Regular Season and Tournament Championship;
Host NCAA Hattiesburg Regional; Finish With Best Season in School History ( 47-16)
This Southern Miss baseball team will be one fans, players,
and coaches will always remember.
The Golden Eagles captured not
only the regular season, but also the
Conference USA tournament title
and hosted its first-ever regional
tournament, advancing to the championship round.
Coming into the season, Head
Coach Corky Palmer and his
Golden Eagles had only one
thing in mind. It was to earn a bid to the NCAA
Regional Tournament. The 2002 season saw
Southern Miss come up a victory shy of making it
to the regional tournament, which left everybody
associated with the Golden Eagle baseball program anxious to get the 2003 season kicked off.
The Golden Eagles lost three starting pitchers from a year before in Shea Douglas, Charlie
Rogers, and Daniel Stewart. Southern Miss also
lost third baseman Allen Winningham and right-fielder Clint Stoy to graduation.
People say you will be able to tell how a season will go by the first series of the year. If that is
true, then it is certainly promising. The first series
of the year was at home versus McNeese State.
The Golden Eagles won two out of three, with the
two wins featuring late inning heroics to propel
Southern Miss to victory.
Possibly the wildest game of the year came in
Southern Miss’ sixth game of the season against
St. John’s at the South Alabama Tournament in
Mobile, Ala. Both teams traded leads until the
ninth inning when the Golden Eagles secured a
The season also featured many late-inning
heroics, such as March 1 against Louisiana Tech.
Trailing 15-13 in the bottom of the ninth inning,
senior centerfielder Jeff Cook blasted a grand-slam
over the center field wall to clinch a 17-15 victory.
On March 29th, redshirt sophomore catcher
Brad Willcutt belted a three-run home run over
the right center in the bottom of the eighth inning
to propel the Golden Eagles over the Tulane
Green Wave, 5-4. One of the more emotional
series of the year, Southern Miss took 2-of- 3
games from Tulane, which at the time gave Corky
Palmer’s team a 20-8 overall record.
Southern Miss proceeded to win 15 of its
next 18 games, with conference sweeps over
Memphis and UAB to push its record to 35-11
heading to Greenville, N.C., to
battle East Carolina in a pivotal
Game one went as planned with
the Golden Eagles picking up a 6-3
victory. Games two and three did
not go as well as the Pirates won
the final two games of the series.
It was the only conference series
Southern Miss lost all season.
Still, the Golden Eagles were
36-13 overall, and were in first
place in Conference USA.
Southern Miss rebounded nicely with a three-game sweep over the USF Bulls at Pete Taylor
Park, including senior backup shortstop Matt
Benson’s pinch-hit walk-off home run in the ninth
inning of game one. The Golden Eagles would
win 12-2 on Saturday, and 8-1 on Sunday.
With a 39-13 overall record, the Golden Eagles
had an opportunity to clinch the regular-season
Conference USA championship as it traveled to
Houston. All Southern Miss needed was to win
two of the three to win the title.
Game one, the Golden Eagles blasted the
Cougars, 19-11, and with TCU losing that night,
Southern Miss clinched at least a tie of the title.
Game two was a close game with Houston coming out on top, 6-5. With the loss, the Golden
Eagles had to win the third game on Saturday if it
wanted to win the regular season championship.
Game three was all Southern Miss, as it won,
15-3, and claimed the regular- season Conference
The Golden Eagles won win the Conference
USA Tournament title, which was held in New
Orleans, La. as it defeated Charlotte (13-0),
Houston ( 7-2), East Carolina ( 3-1), and Tulane
( 7-5), the first time the Green Wave had ever lost
a championship game.
Southern Miss then was selected to host a
regional tournament, which included Southern
University of Baton Rouge, Murray State, and
Baylor. The Golden Eagles would take on
Southern in the first game of the tournament, with
Southern pulling out a 5-3 victory.
For Southern Miss to win the regional tournament, it had to win two games each of the final
two days. The Golden Eagles won both games on
Saturday, beating Murray State, 18-0, and Southern,
18-1, but its fairy tale season finally came to an
end on Sunday when Baylor scored three runs in
the bottom of the eighth to hand Southern Miss a
season-ending 3-2 loss.
The 2003 Golden Eagle baseball team will
never be forgotten as it set school records for most
wins ( 47) in a season and the conference record
for the most league wins ( 23) in a season. They not
only reached their goal of advancing to the NCAA
Tournament but won the conference regular-season and tournament championships, along the way
to make it the best season in school history.
Back Row (from left): Bob McCrory, Griff Israel, John Nicholas, Bryan Bennett, Austin Tubb, Brent Leach,
Stephen Castleman, Daniel Best, Kevin Coker, Adam Smith, Ryan Frith; Third Row: Anthony Dewitt, Cliff Russum,
Eddie Burger, Lane Burroughs - assistant coach, Corky Palmer - head coach, Scott Berry - assistant coach,
Allen Winningham - student assistant coach, Matt Shepherd, Brian Hurley, Brad Willcutt, Deborah Huff - certified
athletic trainer; Second Row: Stephen Gwozdz - manager, Jason Ardoin - student athletic trainer, Nick Valluzzo,
Tray Gamble, Clint King, Beau Griffin, Carlos Velasquez, Jay Blalock, Stan McCollough - student athletic trainer;