|Friday, April 23, 1999||
Volume 64, Issue 137
|Cougars look to prey on Southern Miss Golden Eagles
By Tom Carpenter
If the Conference USA baseball chase for the league title was a horse race, the fans witnessing this contest would be on their feet cheering and screaming as their teams enter the final stretch.
The oddsmakers favorite to win the title, the Houston Cougars, were forced to the outside in Tulane and fell a length behind the Green Wave coming out of the final turn and heading for the finish line.
Long shot Southern Mississippi has quietly moved into contention and is running nose to nose with the Cougars. The Golden Eagles soar into Cougar Field this weekend for a three game series with the Cougars. The first game will begin at 7 p.m. tonight.
Southern Mississippi controls its own destiny, unlike the Cougars. The Golden Eagles finish the season in a head-to-head contest with Tulane that could very well determine the league championship.
If they take care of business against Houston and Tulane, the Golden Eagles will find themselves perched atop the Conference USA final standings, flapping their wings and doing some raucous crowing.
But anything can happen between now and then. The Cougars have demonstrated their resilience after losing to formidable No. 4 Rice and two of three games to No. 20 Tulane.
The mercurial Cougars regrouped to win game three against the Green Wave and then pounded the powerful No. 5 Texas Aggies in College Station 15-5, smashing 18 hits in the process. They have a two-game winning streak against top ranked clubs and have beaten top-25 ranked baseball teams 10 times during the course of this season.
The progression of the young UH team is a clear signal that program head coach Rayner Noble has the team poised to break through the stratosphere of college baseball's elite.
The same opportunity dangles in front of the Southern Mississippi program. After visiting Houston, the Golden Eagles travel to archrival and No. 7 Mississippi State for two games, and close out the season with three games at Louisville and three games at home in Hattiesburg against Tulane.
This is a huge week for the Southern Miss program. Coming to Houston right after Tuesday's 1,000th victory against Nicholls State is akin to breaking out the whip on the stretch run.
If they beat the Cougars, they may move into a tie for first place, but only if Tulane stumbles against a good Memphis ball club this weekend.
Sophomore Dusty Haley leads the Golden Eagle attack with a .407 batting average, smashing 10 home runs and knocking in 48 base runners. He's joined by junior Michael Artman who's hitting .389 with five homers and 32 runs batted in for the Southern Mississippi team. Artman also brings a 29- game hitting streak into Cougar Field.
Junior right-hander Danny Stout, 4-2 with a 4.25 ERA, will pitch the first game for the Golden Eagles. Senior right-hander Josh Walker, 5-1 and a 4.81 ERA, will hurl the second game. The Southern Mississippi pitcher for the third game will be announced prior to the game.
The Cougars will counter with the pitching of right-hander Kyle Crowell and southpaws Shane Nance and Jerret Sykes.
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