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The best in USM history

By By Shawn Wansley / EMG sports columnist
HATTIESBURG n The 2003 University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles baseball team will go down as the best team the school has ever produced.
Even after dropping a tough, 3-2 decision in the championship game of the NCAA Hattiesburg Regional here Sunday afternoon, Golden Eagle coach Corky Palmer was looking to the future.
Just a glance at Sunday's record crowd of 4,601 at Pete Taylor Park-Hill Denson Field shows that. A sea of gold shirts in the grandstands, bleachers, overflow area and the Right Field Roost' gave the Eagles all the support they could ask for and more. In fact, just seconds after the final out was recorded, the Golden Eagle fans gave their team a rousing, standing ovation.
It was a fitting tribute to a squad that finished the season with a 47-16record, posting the most wins ever by a Southern Miss team.
Palmer would love to see more regionals at Southern Miss.
Even Baylor head coach Steve Smith, a Gulfport native and former Mississippi State University assistant coach, was impressed.
On paper, Southern Miss will be in great shape heading into the 2004 season.
Only four seniors n outfielder Jeff Cook, pitcher Stephen Castleman, designated hitter Griff Israel and infielder Matt Benson n were on this year's team.
The Eagles have already signed several top recruits, including several from the Hattiesburg area, and will be looking to reload next year.
Israel, who had three of the Eagles' six hits on the day, said the program is in great hands.
Israel also had praise for Palmer and his approach to the season.
For Corky Palmers and the baseball Eagles, 2003 was a wonderful ride. And the 2004 season could be just as good.
Shawn Wansley is a sports writer for the East Mississippi Group. He may be reached at 601-428-0551, ext. 30, or by email at sports@laurelleadercall.com

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