USM must find ways to win in Braley’s absence


Prior to the Golden Eagles’ contest against the Ole Miss Rebels on Tuesday, news had trickled down the Southern Miss pipeline about a prominent USM player on the squad who may not return this season.

Sophomore third baseman Taylor Braley went under the knife Tuesday morning for an undisclosed left knee injury. Rumor has it that it is a torn meniscus, which would place his timetable for return past the season’s end.

“This is certainly news that you do not want to hear during the middle of your season, or anytime really, but we are very disappointed in this news for Taylor,” said coach Scott Berry in a Southern Miss press release. “He was having a tremendous year for us, but we will adjust and move forward as the season goes on. We know that he will work extremely hard to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

Braley had been on a tear so far this season, batting a .323 batting average combined with 10 home runs. He is the first Golden Eagle since 2013 to reach that plateau in home runs, with the team just nine games into conference play.

The third baseman is leading Conference USA in several categories. Braley placed in the top 10 in the conference in slugging percentage with a .688, home runs, total bases with 66 and RBIs with 31.

Coming off of the disturbing news about Braley’s untimely surgery, Southern Miss just could not produce enough offensively — Braley’s specialty — against Ole Miss, falling 6-2. Southern Miss will have another shot at the Rebels from Oxford on April 13, and their lineup may be different.

With Braley out, a spot will open up for junior Tracy Hadley, who currently leads the team in batting average. Hadley is solid and a little quicker than Braley on defense,
so the third base spot should be fine.

The most contrasting degree of Braley’s absence will be the power taken out of the lineup. But this team has power in other areas in the lineup.

Dylan Burdeaux, Tim Lynch and Chase Scott each have at least five home runs on the year, so the power is not totally lost from the lineup.

It may not be entirely replaced, but at least Braley’s bat will be somewhat covered by others on the roster.