Sports writing samples
The End Beginning: Scott Berry Retires - 5/17/2023Tuesday afternoon marked the beginning of the end of the skipper’s illustrious days at Southern Miss.“Every walk has an end, and every step is a memory,” mused Berry in his letter to Black and Gold faithful in the announcement. The path has been a golden one for the Missouri native turned Mississippi son.The accomplishments are too many to hold in anything less than a novel, but just a few include 9 conference titles (5 regular season, 4 conference tournament), a regional title in 2022, and college baseball’s longest streak of 30 and 40-win seasons. The four-time CUSA Coach of the Year is the program's winningest manager.Those that are halfway familiar with Southern Miss baseball recognize this feat is far more impressive than numbers on a sheet of paper. Berry followed the path of giants. And in his own understated way, left ballpark-sized footprints as the head ball coach on 4th Street.Yet as impressive as the 14-year run has been, the accomplishments on the field are but a string of footnotes in the story of Number 40’s legacy. Integrity, unwavering attention to detail, and a blue-collar approach colored every interaction on the diamond and off for Berry. After Tuesday’s press release, the first tidal wave of tribute flooded in from across the country.Former and present players, former assistants and opposing coaches, sports information directors, you name it. Every detail has mattered in Berry’s time in college baseball, and every person he has crossed paths with has felt the sentiment lived in its purest form. This is what has made Berry one of baseball’s behemoths. It’s what will hold him forever etched into the Mount Rushmore of Southern Miss lore.But fortunately, the story reads on. Berry has gotten every ounce out of his 2023 club that doesn’t have the big-league talent of a season ago but is moving full stride toward another postseason run.Whether or not his career ends in Omaha, as did his friend and predecessor Corky Palmer, the ride has been one that could have been steered by Berry and Berry alone. Enjoy the setting sun of this shining career while you can, reader. The Lord only made one Scott Berry.Until then, he’ll be standing in his third base coaching box, hands on hips.
Hattiesburg Super Regional: Golden Eagles fall one win short - 6/13/2023The Tennessee Volunteers downed Southern Miss in the winner-take-all final.A raucous full house at Pete Taylor Park was held quiet for nearly the full 9 innings of late-night baseball on Monday evening as the Black and Gold were shut out for the second time in 2023. The Golden Eagles simply couldn’t find the big swing. Eleven runners were left on base, and the offense was 0-for-8 with runners scoring position. When Southern Miss struggled, an inopportune offense was typically to blame – the same rang true in the bitter end.The do-or-die super regional title game came on the heels of a 5-3 win and an 8-4 loss. The latter exhibited the Eagles beating themselves with 4 errors and 4 free passes by Tanner Hall. They needed their best ball in game 3 and the lack of big swings was juxtaposed by two Tennessee home runs along with the Volunteer pitching staff’s best performance of the weekend.It doesn’t seem a fitting end for Scott Berry’s 14-year run at Southern Miss. Berry built the program into one of the country’s most consistent successes with the nation’s longest streak of 40 and 30-win seasons. The skipper tosses the keys to Christian Ostrander for a club that is in the best shape it’s ever been in.In 2017, Southern Miss hosted their own regional for the second time in program history – the first as the No. 1 seed. In 2021, the Golden Eagles were a single win from winning their second regional ever. A year later, Southern Miss hosted their first super regional. And in the final year for Berry, the Golden Eagles were a win away from returning to Omaha. If you’re noticing a trend, it’s because it’s staring Black and Gold faithful in the face.It seemed as if every year was a step towards competing for a national championship. Expectations rose at every rung of the ladder, yet success kept pace. The task for newly minted head coach Ostrander is to continue the trajectory established by Scott Berry.2024 Southern Miss Baseball will take on a new look with continually increasing expectations. Though the specifics won’t be known until after the transfer portal closes and the MLB Draft passes in July, the roster will surely see the most significant turnover in some time on 4th Street. Gone are Danny Lynch, Chris Sargent, Rodrigo Montenegro, Blake Johnson, and Reece Ewing. Tanner Hall, Justin Storm, Dustin Dickerson, Slade Wilks, Matt Etzel, Carson Paetow, and Niko Mazza are all draft-eligible and likely will have a chance to move on to professional baseball.The offseason will be a busy one for Christian Ostrander. Not to mention the need for two new assistant coaches to replace the pitching coach position and the newly allowed space for a third paid assistant.The unknowns cover the page of what Southern Miss Baseball will look like moving forward on paper. But the foundation of success is as solid as it’s ever been in Hattiesburg, and this will certainly be far from the final opportunity for the Golden Eagles to make a run at a national championship.
Auburn Regional: Golden Eagles claw their way to Hattiesburg Super Regional - 6/6/2023It was anything but easy as Southern Miss advanced to super regional play.On April 22nd, Southern Miss was 22-15. A host spot was out of the question and an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament looked bleak. Was this a super slump after falling flat in the Hattiesburg Super Regional last year? Were the arms lost from the 2022 club too much to replace? Was there any hope?On Monday afternoon, the Golden Eagles won their 24th of 26 games since that day in late April. They celebrated betwixt the pitcher’s mound and home plate for their second consecutive regional championship. But this time, the festivities were muted jubilation – almost businesslike. In a month and a half, Scott Berry’s boys have gone from dead in the water to soaring toward college baseball’s highest peak. Monday afternoon, heroes abounded.Christian Ostrander’s patchwork approach on the mound proved successful in the end. Tanner Hall was far from sharp, but set the tone for gutsy performances all the way around. Billy Oldham secured the win with 3 innings of scoreless relief, Luke Trahan and Colby Allen picked up some big outs, and Will Armistead once again dazzled to put the 11-7 win on ice.Offensively, Dustin Dickerson once more broke out the power stick for his 4th long ball of the regional – a 3-run hammer over the green monster to give the Eagles an 8-5 lead that they would not relinquish. Carson Paetow and Rodrigo Montenegro each supplied clutch knocks in big spots, continuing the theme set on Sunday evening. After a rough day to start the regional in the loss to Samford, the bats responded with 38 combined runs across the next four games to earn a regional championship the hard way.The Black and Gold have answered questions all year long. One particular quandary seemed to linger for long stretches – is Southern Miss any good? The answer is yes. In fact, the answer could not be more resounding in Scott Berry’s final postseason trip. He leads a crew of swashbuckling believers into the super regional round of NCAA Tournament play vs Tennessee.On Tuesday morning, the NCAA announced that there would be a Hattiesburg Super Regional for a second consecutive year. The Golden Eagles and Vols drew the Saturday - Monday (if necessary) time slot and will play game 1 at 2 o'clock on Saturday.
Shake The Tube: Southern Miss and their unique postseason rally symbol - 5/28/2021As the Golden Eagles took the field close to midnight to play their first game of the 2021 Conference USA tournament, fans noticed a strange object being carried onto the field.The tall, thin, yellow rubber tube made it’s way to the dugout and was being shaken in vigor as the Eagles cruised past Western Kentucky in the early morning hours. Late Thursday night, the yellow tube was in action again against Louisiana Tech behind the hashtag #ShakeTheTube on social media.Many are understably a little confused where this tube came from and why it has become the object of Southern Miss’s new postseason rally cry: Shake The Tube.After a big 4-1 win vs. #18 Louisiana Tech late Thursday night, head coach Scott Berry attempted to explain.“It’s a cover for guide wire that holds up that pole that holds the backstop down. It’s there to protect somebody from running into that cable.”For reference, here’s an example of a “utility pole guide wire” as I have discovered it is called:The tube can be slid up the wire and apparently stuck at the top of the netting – which is what some of the Southern Miss players began doing early in the fall.“It’s become a game to stick it up there and try to get it back down,” said Scott Berry.Will McGillis, senior captain, explains further: “The pitchers got it stuck one time, and every day they were just shaking on this wire, it was pretty annoying. Then eventually they finally got it to come down.”“Tanner Hall is the one that finally got it down,” said Berry. “I noticed it had gotten down and said, ‘Who is the one that got it down?’ They said ‘Tanner Hall, he shakes it all the time.’ I said, ‘see, that’s a life lesson right there. You just stay persistent; you just keep shaking and keep shaking and finally something will break loose for you.”“We’ve kept ‘keep shakin’ as a mantra,” McGillis said. “The Rally Tube is a symbol for that. So we took it off of the net and brought it with us here.”The tube drew some ire from Louisiana Tech fans, who were both angry and confused as senior pitcher Sean Tweedy waved a utility pole guide wire high in the air after Ryan Och got a strikeout to end a bases-loaded jam in the 5th inning. Rally Tube passed hands throughout the night – and eventually ended up in the hands of Coach Berry, Ryan Och, and Will McGillis as they did their postgame interviews.Nowhere else but college baseball would something as mundane as the rubber tubing that protects the wires adding stability to a free standing structure become a rally cry for postseason competition. No one other than Scott Berry could find a life lesson from shaken it down after getting it stuck at the top of the backstop netting.The Eagles have a long way to go to reach their goals in the postseason. There will be tense moments, challenging situations, and tough breaks. But the young club will be just fine if they do what they’ve done all year long: just keep shakin’.
Ben Milam is a play-by-play broadcaster with more than 200 games broadcasted across 5 sports at the NAIA, NCAA D1, NJCAA D1, and high school levels.Additionally, he has worked as a staff writer for BigGoldNation of the Rivals network, hosted and co-hosted state-wide radio shows, and worked as a PA announcer across multiple levels and sports.
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