Southern Miss keeping focus on team, C-USA Tournament

Courtesy: Southern Miss Athletics

HATTIESBURG, Miss.- After leading his team a school-record 44 wins and an outright Conference USA regular season championship, Southern Miss senior 1B Dylan Burdeaux (West Monroe, La.), the nation’s hits leader, was named 2017 C-USA Player of the Year. He also had six teammates, his head coach and an assistant coach honored by the league as well on Tuesday.

Southern Miss OF Matt Wallner (Forest Lake, Minn.) was named C-USA Freshman of the Year, while Golden Eagle head coach Scott Berry was named the Keith LeClair Coach of the Year and hitting coach Chad Caillet earned the Assistant Coach of the Year honor.

Burdeaux, the first Southern Miss player to win C-USA Player of the Year honors, leads Division I in hits with 97 and tops Conference USA in RBI (66), total bases (152) and stolen bases (19). His 22 doubles and 61 runs scored each rank second in C-USA. Burdeaux batted .403 in league play and is hitting .372 overall, while entering the C-USA Championship on an 11-game hitting streak, with base knocks in 31 of his last 33 outings. A semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, he ranks in the Southern Miss all-time top 10 in seven different categories.

Wallner, only the second Golden Eagle to win Freshman of the Year, enjoys a .340 batting average and ranks second in the conference with 17 home runs and 55 RBI. His home run total is the most ever by a Southern Miss freshman and he ranks second in C-USA in slugging percentage (.680) and on-base percentage (.466). Wallner also has registered a 2-0 pitching record with a 1.84 ERA and three saves in eight relief appearances. The only freshman to earn All-Conference honors, he recently became just the second player in Southern Miss history to receive an invitation to attend the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team training camp this summer.

Joining Burdeaux on the all-league first team included utility player Taylor Braley, starting pitcher Kirk McCarty, and relief pitchers Nick Sandlin and Colt Smith. Outfielders Mason Irby and Wallner garnered second-team accolades.

Braley, a junior from Hattiesburg, Miss., batted.333 during the regular season with 14 home runs and 55 RBI at third base and as designated hitter, while also posting a 5-2 pitching record with a 3.69 ERA. McCarty, another Hattiesburg, Miss., product and a left-handed pitcher, led the team with a 9-2 record with a 2.99 ERA. He also paced the squad in strikeouts with 90.

As for the relief pitching spots, Sandlin – a right-hander from Evans, Ga. – collected an 8-1 record with six saves, while fanning 64 in 43 2/3 innings for a 2.06 ERA. Smith, who spent most of the year in the bullpen before being transitioned into a starter, is 6-0 on the year with a 2.61 ERA.

Along with Wallner on the second team, Irby – from Meridian, Miss. – put together a .339 batting average with a home run and 38 RBI for the Golden Eagles in the outfield.

After leading Southern Miss to its fourth Conference USA regular season championship and setting a school regular season record with 44 victories, Berry earned his second Keith LeClair Coach of the Year honor. The Golden Eagles’ 25-5 mark in conference play tied the league mark for the most wins in league play and Southern Miss set a record for most road victories in C-USA play, going 14-1. The Golden Eagles are ranked in the top 15, are the top hitting team in C-USA and have the lowest earned run average.

As the Southern Miss hitting coach, Caillet directed the most productive batting lineup in the conference to earn the Assistant Coach of the Year award. The Golden Eagles have 22 double-digit scoring games this season, feature seven different players with at least 75 at-bats that are batting .312 or better and all 14 position players with an at-bat this season have homered for the club.

Louisiana Tech senior RHP Nate Harris, the league’s leader in wins and saves, earned C-USA Pitcher of the Year honors, while Old Dominion junior 2B Jared Young gained Newcomer of the Year recognition and Monarch teammate senior SS Zach Rutherford won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

Southern Miss had the most first-team All-Conference selections with five and the most total selections with seven. Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion each had three first team picks, while Charlotte produced two. Louisiana Tech’s five total all-conference choices were second only to Southern Miss, while Charlotte ranked third with four total picks. Seven of the league’s teams had at least one representative on the first team unit, while 10 had second-team selections. Old Dominion led the way on All-Freshman team with three choices, with Charlotte and FIU each placing two on a unit that included at least one player from seven schools. Voting was done by a panel consisting of each head coach, each team’s media relations director and a media representative from each city.

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