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Palmer provides golden prediction for USM baseball

According to Coach Corky Palmer, the future of Southern Missbaseball is much brighter than the reflection off his glisteningforehead. Palmer was in town Tuesday night, speaking to theSouthern Miss alumni chapter which gathered at the CountryFisherman restaurant.

Palmer has forged a successful baseball tradition on theHattiesburg campus. Support and enthusiasm for USM’s Golden Eaglescontinues to grow. The Eagles have made five straight postseasonappearances in NCAA regionals.

The latest regional berth, at Oxford, saw the Eagles finish39-23. In 10 years at the helm, Palmer is 376-233 overall.

“We have five guys on our team who will get drafted,” saidPalmer, referring to his 2008 squad. The Major League BaseballDraft arrives in May, usually about a week before the NCAAregionals.

Growing in popularity after each successful season, the USMbaseball program appears to be cruising. Twelve suites and a newpress box are under construction at Pete Taylor Park/Hill DensonField.

Palmer, a 1977 USM grad, also has a winning record againstarchrival Ole Miss. Shane Coghlan, assistant athletic director,pointed out that fact last night. The crowd of 50 folks smiled,nodded and applauded the accomplishment.

A 1998 Southern Miss Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Palmerapplauded the delicious buffet provided by Rusty Adcock and hisstaff. “This is the best food I’ve had in 10 years of alumnimeetings. If anyone asks me where is a great place to eat inBrookhaven, I’ll tell them about the Country Fisherman.”

Palmer’s review of the USM baseball program certainly agreedwith the faithful followers last night. For him, an immediatepriority is filling the vacancy left by assistant coach LaneBurroughs who accepted a position at Kansas State University lastweek.

Looking at the 2008 season, Palmer said, “I’ll be disappointedif we aren’t fighting for the conference championship. We have achance to be a special team.”

One of the team’s goals will be to host a regional tournamentnext May. “You sure have a better shot at making a super regionalif you host a regional.”

Palmer claims to have the best hitter in Conference USA insecond baseman Trey Sutton, a West Jones product. The rest of thelineup must improve its offensive skills if they hope to achievethe C-USA crown.

According to Palmer, the strength of his team next season willbe the pitching staff. David Clark, Todd McInnis and Barry Bowdengive USM three super right-handers. The Eagles also boast fourstrong relief pitchers.

Another outstanding pitcher headed for the Hattiesburg campus isBrookhaven senior southpaw Paxton King who made a verbal commitmentlast month. King can sign with USM in November.

Thanks to the Dugout Club, USM’s baseball facilities continueimproving. Palmer said the Dugout Club, directed by president BenWilloughby, raises from $70-100,000 per year.

“I’m known for working my players hard,” said Palmer. “So theyshould have the best facilities available.”

Palmer said the Dugout Club helped finance a team charter flightto East Carolina this season. “We won two out of three in thatseries. That long bus ride would have worn us out.”

Southern Miss baseball fans will have an opportunity to purchase580 more chairback seats this winter. Palmer said the initial $400fee would allow the fan’s name to be engraved on a nameplateattached to the seat.

More earth work is planned at the stadium. “We are going toterrace that big clay hill you see coming into the stadium,” saidPalmer. “We want more seating space for our fans behind theoutfield fence.”

Overall, Palmer said the athletic program was in good hands,under the leadership of athletic director Richard Gianinni. “He hasbrought some good people in.”

Palmer said the departure of USM sports information directorMike Montoro to West Virginia University was a major loss. “Mikeworked hard and did a great job with a small staff. He didn’tcomplain about it. He just worked at promoting our program and thewhole athletic program.

“You probably noticed how much our sports media guides haveimproved over the last five years,” Palmer noted. “Mike deservesmost of the credit for that.”

For sure, Palmer deserves credit for raising USM’s baseballprogram to a higher level.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com