Southern Miss uses long ball to take Sun Belt crown from Louisiana

Southern Miss needed just one season to swipe the Sun Belt crown from its newest rival.

The Golden Eagles (41-17) took down Louisiana, 6-2, on Sunday to claim a conference championship in their first season as a member of the SBC.

Dustin Dickerson and Danny Lynch each launched solo home runs before Dickerson gave USM the lead for good in the fifth inning with an RBI single.

Slade Wilks tacked on insurance in the seventh inning with a two-run blast over the right-field wall, scoring Matt Etzel for the second time.

It was Justin Storm’s work on the mound that stymied the Cajuns and stole the show. The reliever went 5.2 innings and struck out eight batters to just five baserunners allowed.

Storm’s workload was a season-high and represented the most innings he’s thrown since tossing five complete and scoreless against LSU in the Hattiesburg regional a year ago.

“Being the first year we were in the Sun Belt, we kind of wanted to prove a point,” Storm said after the game. The junior had thrown 30 pitches on Thursday and was on three days rest when his number was called following fellow Madison, Ms. native Niko Mazza’s three-inning start.

“At this point, it’s all out,” Storm said of his 84-pitch outing. “We want to win the championship, everything else is out the window. We showed up on championship Sunday, it doesn’t matter if you’re sore, if you’re tired, you got to forget it and you got to play.”

It’s the sixth conference tournament championship for USM and first since 2019. It’s an especially sweet title for the program as it comes in head coach Scott Berry’s final season at the helm.

The Golden Eagles are 19-2 since dropping the first two games at Coastal Carolina in late April by scores of 15-7 and 20-7.

“We got gut-punched over at Coastal Carolina and we had a choice, get up and do something about it or just lay there and keep getting gut-punched,” Berry said. “I feel like it was the inside guys who took a hold of that and give them a little bit of direction. They took it and ran with it and haven’t looked back.”

In the 21 games since that gut check, USM is 17-0 when scoring at least five runs and have built a resume that landed them a high two-seed in the Auburn regional.

Southern Miss is the first team to win the SBC tournament title in its first season as a league member.

“I want the new guys to understand that this is not something that just happens,” Berry said of his program, which will be playing NCAA tournament baseball for the seventh straight season. “This happens for a reason. The hard work that we put in, the commitment that our guys do in their work.”