USM loses second game of College World Series

Published 3:56 am Wednesday, June 17, 2009

(AP) — Emotions took over Southern Mississippi’s Corky Palmer moments after his 32-year coaching career ended with a second straight loss at the College World Series.

“I told my wife (Debbie) this would be the last time I put on this jersey,” the moist-eyed Palmer said, his voice cracking, after an 11-4 loss to North Carolina. “I reckon I’ve got to give it to her.”

The Golden Eagles couldn’t give the 55-year-old Palmer one more day of coaching. He was 960-493, including 458-281 at Southern Miss the past 12 years.

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Palmer announced in April that he would retire at the end of the season. Southern Miss finished fifth in Conference USA and then went on its improbable run. The Eagles entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 regional seed. They won a regional at Georgia Tech before sweeping their super regional at Florida.

“We had a magical season,” Palmer said, “Our kids played great, and you can’t ask more than what we’ve done over the past three weeks.

“Im real glad these guys let me work a little longer. It wasn’t me, it was them.”

Palmer, whose last team finished 40-26, couldn’t overcome pitching problems in Omaha. The Eagles walked nine in a 7-6 loss to Texas, including a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning that forced in the winning run. Tuesday, North Carolina pounded out a CWS record-tying 23 hits off four pitchers.

Palmer paid tribute to the three seniors who joined him at the postgame news conference — Bo Davis, James Ewing and Brian Dozier.

“These are tremendous guys, very loyal to me and to the program,” Palmer said. “They were the focus of this team entering the season. Doggone it, they only played 15 games together all season with injuries and all.”

Dozier, who entered the season as the NCAA active career hits leader and one of two players with 300 hits in Southern Miss program history, was activated for the CWS even though he’s not fully recovered from a collar bone fracture he suffered in April. Palmer said Dozier ranks among the best five players he’s coached at Southern Miss.

Dozier pinch hit in the eighth and reached on an error.

“I didn’t think I would ever play college baseball again,” Dozier said. “For these guys to push this last three weeks is really special for me. To get my last at-bat, just getting on base by an error doesn’t happen a lot.

“It’s been overwhelming for me. To end my career like this is truly phenomenal for me.”

Palmer said the program will be in good hands with Scott Berry as the new head coach. Berry was associate head coach for six seasons.

“I leave it with an outstanding coach,” Palmer said. “I look forward to coming out and watching games in the future.”