Bennett, Meng catch on at USM

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Elliot Meng didn’t really get a chance to answer the question of how he landed a spot on the Southern Miss baseball roster for this spring.

Teammate Bryan Bennett answered it for him.

&uot;Right place at the right time.&uot;

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It’s not the norm for guys out of Class A private school level to have college scouts on their trails, although there have been exceptions.

Meng, a left-hander out of Trinity Episcopal, did put up the numbers to get attention from junior colleges, but he happened to catch the eye of USM head coach Corky Palmer during the summer when Palmer was in Vidalia for a summer camp.

Palmer attended a game of the East Central All-Stars, and Meng just happened to be on the mound that day. Palmer reportedly had one roster spot left, and Meng accepted to join as a walk-on with the fall semester just around the corner.

&uot;Just small schools &045; Co-Lin and that kind of stuff,&uot; said Meng of his choices at first. &uot;After Southern Miss, I shut them out pretty much. I wanted to come here.&uot;

Meng was a surprise addition to the USM roster and the growing number of players from the Miss-Lou suiting up for the Golden Eagles. He joins sophomore infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir and freshman Bryan Bennett &045; both of Vidalia &045; for this season.

Meng put up the numbers last season &045; a 1.07 ERA while striking out 79 and walking just 19 in 53 innings pitched.

And with the impromptu audition, that was good enough to get Palmer’s attention.

&uot;He’s a lefty, doesn’t throw very hard but has good control,&uot; Palmer said. &uot;In Division I if you’re a left-hander and have good control, you’ve got a chance to get people out. Velocity isn’t big for a left-hander. We’ll likely red-shirt him, but he’s getting better will still improve. He’s got to keep working.&uot;

The season opened up for the Golden Eagles Friday against McNeese State, and both Meng and Bennett will likely be red-shirted this season. But that’s not leaving the two sitting on their hands.

Meng’s fastball is coming in at 84 mph, and he’s trying to kick that up a bit.

&uot;I’m just pitching,&uot; Meng said. &uot;Velocity is probably my main thing. I’ve been working a lot since I’ve been here. I’m working on my changeup right now. I’ve got to get that (84 mph) up. My movement is probably my main thing.&uot;

Bennett posted big numbers at the plate for the Vikings last season, but he, too, has some work to do before contributing at the D-I level. He hit .420 last year and clubbed 11 homers but is one of four first basemen on the roster.

Griff Israel returns to play first after starting in 54 of 55 games last season for USM.

&uot;I’ve got to work on hitting the ball to the opposite field,&uot; Bennett said. &uot;My defense is coming around. I’m hitting the weights and trying to get stronger. They’re trying to get me to hit doubles and homers and not just singles.&uot;

Adam Daigle

is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at (601) 445-3632 or by e-mail at