Hoff, Eagles still sitting well in CUSA

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The brooms were out &045; literally in the third-base stands &045; Sunday at Pete Taylor Park, and the USM Golden Eagles were about to make a statement.

Perhaps the nosedive from a year ago was fresh on their minds. That featured Tulane taking a sweep of them in the final weekend down at Turchin Stadium in New Orleans to send the Eagles into a tailspin just before the conference tournament.

The tables have turned.

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Former Vidalia High standout Jarrett Hoffpauir and the rest of the Golden Eagles were a little bitter they didn’t return the favor and take the sweep Sunday afternoon as they lost, 5-4.

The Eagles, however, remain in first place in Conference USA.

&uot;Against Tulane, two out of three is good,&uot; said Hoffpauir, a freshman on last year’s squad. &uot;We wanted three but fell a little short. We’ve got to overcome it and get ready for Cincinnati next weekend. We’re never satisfied, but we feel good about being first in this league. We feel better about this year.&uot;

The loss started Hoff and the Eagles thinking about that sweep last year and all the sour feelings that accompanied it &045; the team seemed destined for an NCAA berth, but faltering at the end didn’t set well with the people who pick the bracket.

&uot;We’re going to try to avoid what we did last year,&uot; said center fielder Jeff Cook. &uot;The last 20 we kind of dropped.&uot;

Had the Eagles swept Tulane &045; a participant in last year’s NCAA and the College World Series the year before &045; it would have been huge. The Green Wave salvaged one game to improve for 5-4 in Conference USA action, while the loss sent the Eagles to 7-2.

&uot;It just shows it’s so hard to sweep,&uot; USM head coach Corky Palmer said. &uot;We had an opportunity last week in Louisville. We had a shot, but they’ve got an outstanding team. But it’s a good series, and we’re halfway down. There’s a lot of ball left to be played.If we can play the next 28 like we did these past 28, we’ll be OK.&uot;

Southern Miss came into the weekend tied atop the standings with TCU, and the Horned Frogs lost Sunday to drop two of three against Houston and fall back in the standings.

But if you ask Tulane head coach Rick Jones who he thinks is the best team in the league right now, he’ll tell you the team that took of three from his bunch this weekend.

&uot;I think this is a deep-in-the-postseason Southern Miss team,&uot; Jones said. &uot;I’ve seen a Super Regional team and a World Series team. They’ve got every weapon necessary to be successful at the highest level. They are so balanced from left to right with speed and power.&uot;

Maybe that’s just the experience from returning players who remember that nosedive at Tulane and the end of the season. But it’s like Palmer said &045; there’s plenty of baseball left.

&uot;When you look at all of it, I’m happy where we’re at,&uot; Palmer said. &uot;We’ve got to realize any time we play a conference weekend anybody can beat anybody. I think that’s going to be my hardest job.&uot;

Adam Daigle

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