ATLANTA — One day after questions about the Southern Mississippi pitching staff were finalized, injures to a pair of key hitters gained a bit more clarity.
On the eve of Southern Miss” NCAA regional game against Mississippi State, Ferriss Trophy winner Tyler Koelling said he hasn”t recovered from an hamstring that forced him to miss the Conference USA tournament.
As expected, Koelling will start today.
“It feels good. It”s about 85 or 90 (percent), good enough to play,” said Koelling, who leads the Golden Eagles with a .367 batting average and 46 RBIs. “I”m just gonna do what I can to help the team.”
Koelling, an outfielder, likely will play designated hitter. That scenario, though, might hinge on the health of teammate Michael Doleac.
Doleac, a 6-foot-4 senior first baseman, has the “onset” of a stress fracture in his left foot and is questionable to play today, said coach Scott Berry.
Doleac is batting .338 with two home runs and 39 RBIs.
Doleac took batting practice Thursday, although Berry said his injury was evident during running exercises.
“I want to put our best product on the field to give us the best chance to win, and physically they got to be ready to go,” Berry said. “With 24 hours to go, there”s some things you got to do to prove he can be in there. We got people that can step up and are gonna have to step up.”
“When I look at him, I kind of see a (former Los Angeles Dodger) Kirk Gibson type of deal. Hopefully it”ll be the same outcome if that”s the case.”
If Doleac can”t start, junior B.A. Vollmuth could move from the left side of the infield to first base. Vollmuth started the season at shortstop before moving to third base late this spring. However, his stretch of five errors highlighted defensive issues that led to two losses to Houston and one to Rice. He leads the team with 21 errors.
Nostalgia in Russ Chandler Park
In 2009, Southern Miss qualified for its first College World Series.
The beginning of that historic run was in Atlanta, where the Golden Eagles won a regional for the first time in 10 tries.
Then a freshman, Vollmuth hit two home runs in a nine-run second inning that helped Southern Miss beat Georgia Tech 12-8 in the regional final.
Southern Miss was the only No. 3 seed to advance to a Super Regional that year. The Golden Eagles then won in Gainesville, Fla., before going 0-2 in Omaha, Neb.
“Me and Tyler (Koelling) talked about it on the way over here. Great things happened here in 2009,” USM pitcher Todd McGinnis said. “We”re not gonna live in the past; we”re gonna come out here and play each and every day and hopefully everything works out for us.
“But coming into the stadium, you could feel the emotions of what we experienced two years ago.”
Golden Eagles not sweating Pollorena
MSU pitcher Luis Pollorena said he threw harder this week in his bullpen session than he had all season.
MSU catcher Wes Thigpen raved about how much “life” his fastball had after two outings where the sophomore hadn”t pitched as well as he would have liked.
Southern Miss remembers well what Pollorena in top form can do. Earlier this season, he pitched five-plus innings of shutout ball and gave up one hit in MSU”s 5-4 win in Pearl.
Pollorena has had more than a week of rest, and, like the entire staff, feels rejuvenated after being overworked this season.
The approach today won”t be anything special, Southern Miss outfielder Marc Bourgeois said.
“I think it”s just stick to our game plan and not get overwhelmed,” he said. “He”s got great stuff, but we”ve just got to stay in the middle of the field, think backside, and keep hitting line drives and hard ground balls and we”ll be fine.”