USM Golden Eagles’ season concludes in regional round

Published 8:19 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Southern Miss’ baseball season ended Sunday, June 5, in the Tallahassee Regional with a 7-5 loss to South Alabama.

The Golden Eagles were attempting to reach the finals of the regional round.

Sunday’s loss was the final game of pitcher Clay Tageant’s playing career.

Tageant, a Franklinton graduate, said he is thankful for the game of baseball.

“It’s been good to me,” Tageant said. “It’s taught me so much about life. I’ve met a lot of people because of baseball. It all started when I was playing for my dad (Franklinton baseball coach Jeff Tageant) at Franklinton and continued at LSU-Eunice, then Delgado and USM. I’ve gone a lot of places. Being able to play a really hard game and be successful at it is a great honor.”

Tageant ended his career on a high note and with a solid season. In the regionals, he threw four scoreless innings, all in relief, allowing one hit with three walks and a strikeout over two games.

Tageant pitched in the opener of the regionals, a 14-2 victory over South Alabama.

The final college baseball game Tageant ever pitched in was Saturday against Florida State. USM lost 7-2 but Tageant threw three scoreless innings, allowing a hit with two walks and a strikeout.

“The first game against South Alabama, our starter Kirk McCarty dominated (six scoreless innings of three hit ball with four strikeouts),” he said. “Our offense got us up like 14-0. It was kind of my bullpen day. I go out and you’re pitching in the regional. When it’s 14-0, I call them trap innings. You’re going to throw fastballs and the hitters know you’re going to throw fastballs, so it’s not the best situation for a pitcher.

“Against Florida State, they were up 7-2 and they (the coaching staff) were kind of, give us what you can. We play for the big inning. The crowd was big. It was a Saturday night and they were sold out. I was able to throw three scoreless innings. It was kind of a storybook ending for me personally, pitching in front of a crowd like that with your back against the wall.”

Tageant was solid all season. He pitched in 15 games, all out of the bullpen. He had no record, but recorded a 0.61 ERA. He allowed one run on 10 hits over 14-2/3 innings and opponents hit just .196 against him.

The Golden Eagles finished with a 41-20 record and captured the Conference USA Tournament.

Tageant said it was a memorable season.

“The motivation goes back to last year not making it to regional when we thought we should’ve been in,” Tageant said. “We had a lot of returning players and we had a chip on our shoulder. That’s what motivated me throughout the summer, fall and the season. We didn’t want to be left out. I don’t think our RPI got above 25 all year.”

Tageant said his team lost several players to injury, but the “next guy up” continued to come through.

“We were tight,” Tageant said. “We had 13 seniors and a lot of them were fifth- and sixth-year guys. We were old. It was enjoyable. It was one of my best years. I’ve never been this tight with a team. There was such a strong bridge between the seniors and the freshmen.”

Tageant will get to continue being on the diamond, as he has accepted a position on the Meridian Community College baseball coaching staff.

This season, Meridian tallied a 39-12 overall record and 21-10 in conference, which was runner-up to National Champion Jones Community College. Meridian reached the conference tournament, but lost both games in the tourney, which ended their season.