Dylan Burdeaux snags one at first base. Credit: USM media relations

Southern Miss senior first baseman Dylan Burdeaux, who leads college baseball in hits, Tuesday became the first Golden Eagle ever to earn Conference USA Player of the Year.

USM outfielder/pitcher Matt Wallner was named the league’s top freshman, and Scott Berry was named Coach of the Year, having led the Eagles to a 44-12 record entering the conference tournament in Biloxi, which begins Wednesday.

That’s not all. USM hitting coach Chad Caillet was selected C-USA assistant coach of the year. In all, five Golden Eagles made the All-C-USA first team and two more were on the second team. Voting was done by a panel consisting of each head coach, each team’s media relations director and a media representative from each city.

Wallner, Taylor Braley (as a utility player), starting pitcher Kirk McCarty and relief pitchers Nick Sandlin and Colt Smith all made first team. Wallner and outfielder Mason Irby were selected to the second team.

Burdeaux tops Conference USA in RBI (66), total bases (152) and stolen bases (19).  His 22 doubles and 61 runs scored each rank second in C-USA.  Burdeaux batted .403 in league play and is hitting .372 overall, while entering the C-USA Championship on an 11-game hitting streak.

Wallner is hitting .340 and ranks second in the conference with 17 home runs and 55 RBI.  His home run total is the most ever by a Southern Miss freshman and he ranks second in C-USA in slugging percentage (.680) and on-base percentage (.466). Wallner also has registered a 2-0 pitching record with a 1.84 ERA and three saves in eight relief appearances.  He recently became just the second player in Southern Miss history to receive an invitation to attend the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team training camp this summer.

Braley, a junior from Oak Grove, batted .333 during the regular season with 14 home runs and 55 RBI at third base and as designated hitter. He also posted a 5-2 pitching record with a 3.69 ERA. McCarty, another Oak Grove product and a left-handed pitcher, led the team with a 9-2 record with a 2.99 earned run average.

Sandlin achieved an 8-1 record with six saves and a 2.06 ERA. Smith spent most of the year in the bullpen before being transitioned into a starter, is 6-0 with a 2.61 ERA. Irby hit .339 with a home run and 38 RBI.

The Golden Eagles’ 25-5 mark in conference play tied the league record for the most wins in league play and USM set a record for most road victories in C-USA play, going 14-1.

Louisiana Tech senior right-hander Nate Harris, the league’s leader in wins and saves, earned C-USA Pitcher of the Year honors, while Old Dominion junior second baseman Jared Young gained Newcomer of the Year recognition and Monarch teammate senior shortstop Zach Rutherford won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.