Golden Eagles earn spot in College World Series

Southern MissGAINESVILLE, FLA. — For the first time in school history, the University of Southern Mississippi will play in the College World Series.

The Golden Eagles earned one of eight spots in collegiate baseball’s showcase event by scoring three times in the eighth inning to rally from five runs down and beat Florida 7-6 on Sunday to sweep the Gators in the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional.

After reliever Collin Cargill got clean-up hitter Josh Adams to ground into a game-ending double play, USM players sprinted from the dugout and joined those on the field in a human dog-pile celebration near the mound.

“It feels amazing,” said Bo Davis, USM’s senior centerfielder. “I thought the last dog pile (after winning the Atlanta Regional) was one of the best, but this tops it for sure.”

The CWS starts Saturday at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb., and runs through the crowning of a national champion on June 23 or 24.

USM (40-24) will play its opening game of the double-elimination event Sunday against the winner of today’s game between the University of Texas and Texas Christian University. The CWS game times will be announced later.

The trip will extend for at least two more games what has become a dream run for Corky Palmer, who announced in April he will retire at the end of this season, his 12th as the Eagles coach.

Two weeks ago, after the Golden Eagles lost to Rice in the Conference USA Tournament championship game, Palmer wasn’t sure whether USM would even get an invitation to the 64-team NCAA Tournament.

Now, after upsetting host Georgia Tech to win the NCAA Atlanta Regional last week and beating the host Gators in close games two days in a row, his team is one of eight still playing for the national championship.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Palmer, 55. “I can’t describe from where we were at three weeks ago going into the conference tournament to where it is now. It proves our kids gave everything they had.”

Things didn’t look good for USM early on Sunday – the Golden Eagles and star pitcher Todd McInnis fell behind 6-1 after three innings.

But just as they have throughout a postseason run that has included eight victories in 10 games, the Golden Eagles battled back. USM scored twice in the fourth then added a run in the fifth on James Ewing’s solo homer, cutting the deficit to 6-4.

USM then broke through for three in the eighth to take its first lead of the game.

Joey Archer’s two-run single tied the game at 6, then Adam Doleac scored what proved to be the winning run when the Gators couldn’t turn what would have been an inning-ending double play on Tyler Koelling’s sharp-hit grounder.

Scott Copeland (2-5) was the winning pitcher for USM, throwing three innings of one-hit, scoreless middle relief.

The victory was USM’s 12th in its last 15 games.

“Everything has been going our way, and you can’t complain,” said Doleac, who scored the winning run. “This is the best time of my life right now.”

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