When the 2020 college baseball season ended so abruptly last week, Southern Miss senior second baseman Matt Guidry owned a school-record 72-game on-base streak.
That’s right. For 72 consecutive games, over two seasons, Guidry had reached base at least once. For that period of time, he reached base roughly half the times he entered the batter’s box. He was a team captain both those seasons.
And here’s the thing: That might be the way Guidry’s baseball career ends – with a 72-game on-base streak and as one of the most dependable players in the proud baseball history of Southern Miss. He is a fifth-year senior, red-shirted in his first year at USM out of nearby Oak Grove High School. An honors student, he graduated last fall with a degree in criminal justice. He currently is working on a Masters in business administration. He will turn 24 this December.
The NCAA has granted spring sports student-athletes an extra year of eligibility because of this season’s early curtailment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidry swears he hasn’t even thought about that yet.
“I really haven’t,” Guidry said in a phone interview. “To be honest, I’ve been more concerned with the health of my family and friends and friends’ families. Man, these are crazy times. Seeing all these numbers about the disease, I really don’t feel comfortable talking about baseball. I’m praying and hoping for some kind of vaccine or cure. We’ll worry about baseball later.”
Nevertheless, Guidry was asked to reflect on his career, this short-circuited season and the way it ended.
“Well, what happened last week was pretty surreal,” Guidry said. “At first, the season was suspended and we were holding out hope that it would not be canceled all together. We didn’t get the final word until Monday night about 8 p.m.
“I understand it, but I still hate it was cut short,” Guidry continued. “We had a young team that was growing and getting better ever practice, every game. We had so many young guys who were learning and getting better.”
This was supposed to have been somewhat of a rebuilding season, but Southern Miss was 12-4 and had won every weekend series. On the road, in a mid-week game against No. 5 ranked Ole Miss, the Golden Eagles led for much of the game before losing 4-3. In their final game, on the road against Troy, the Eagles erased a 7-2 deficit to win 9-7.
“We were having fun playing the game,” Guidry said. “Our younger guys were really playing well.”
Guidry was playing especially well, hitting .313 with an amazing .566 on base percentage. In 48 official at bats, he had hit four doubles, a triple and two home runs. If his career has ended, he finishes with a career .321 batting average, an on base percentage of .470, 19 home runs and 130 runs batted in.
“Guid is just a ballplayer,” USM head coach Scott Berry said. “He’s solid. He’s a leader. He’s clutch. He’s everything you want.”
Guidry was an all-state player and three-year starter at tradition-rich Oak Grove, which has been quite the feeder program for USM, which now counts four former Oak Grove Warriors on its roster. Guidry played left field, third base and finally shortstop at Oak Grove and Berry had no idea what he would end up playing defensively in college when he signed him.
“We just knew he would hit,” Berry said. “And we knew he was a worker and had the kind of character we want in our program.”
Of Guidry’s on-base streak, Berry said, “It’s probably been done somewhere before, but I’ve never heard of it.”
Guidry might have been a prized recruit but he had to wait his turn at Southern Miss.
“We were loaded when Guid got here,” Berry said. “He was good enough to play and normally he would have but we just had no place to put him where he would get enough at bats and enough playing time to use up a year of eligibility.”
A season on the bench was something new for Guidry, but he says it might have been the year that sparked his biggest improvement as a baseball player.
“Looking back, it might have been the most important year of my life so far,” Guidry said. “It was tough not playing the game I love, but I learned so much that year, got stronger, grew more as a player.”
It prepared him to help Southern Miss average 45 victories per season and win two conference championships over the next three years. During Guidry’s three-plus seasons as an active player, the Eagles are 147-58. If that’s the way it ends, it has been quite the ride.