Southern Miss misses out on securing regular season championship

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Louisiana Tech (35-18, 18-9) snapped Southern Miss’ (36-14, 20-6) streak of 12 consecutive C-USA series wins and prevented Southern Miss from sealing the regular season conference championship this weekend.

“We have to get right back to it on Tuesday and get after an important midweek game,” head coach Scott Berry said.  “It’s been well over a year since we lost a (conference) series and LA Tech earned it. I said, ‘us and them are the best two teams in the league,’ not that they are better than us but they are certainly right there at the top. This weekend they were better than us.”

Southern Miss struggled in game one, and starting ace pitcher Nick Sandlin had his worst performance on the season.  In 6.1 innings pitched, Sandlin gave up four runs, walked four batters and struck out eight. The runs Sandlin allowed were the first he had given in over 39 innings pitched.

Southern Miss took a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning with a double from Mason Irby that scored a run and a LeeMarcus Boyd three-run home run.

LA Tech responded with 10 runs of their own in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, seven of which were scored in the seventh inning.

The Bulldogs took an 8-4 lead in the seventh inning after the bases became loaded from a throwing error and then a walk and hit batter by Sandlin. Relief pitcher Mason Strickland then gave up a three-run double and relief pitcher Keller Bradford also up a two-run home run in the inning.

LA Tech secured the 10-6 win with two more runs in the eighth inning.

Southern Miss then had a momentum shift in game two, as the Golden Eagles 15-run mercy ruled the Bulldogs in the eighth inning for the 16-1 win.

The Golden Eagles hit five home runs in the game, a season-high for the team.

Luke Reynolds homered in the first inning to give Southern Miss a 1-0 lead. Louisiana Tech followed in the second inning with a solo home run to tie the game, 1-1.

Casey Maack responded in the second inning with a solo home run to give the Golden Eagles a 2-1 lead. Hunter Slater hit a three-run home run in the third inning, then Matt Wallner followed with a three-run home run in the sixth inning and then homered again in the eighth inning.

Unfortunately for Southern Miss, the runs did not carry over into game three, as the team experienced one its worst games on the season.  Southern Miss went through seven different pitchers in the 8-3 loss.

From the first pitch on we just didn’t give ourselves a good opportunity,” Berry said. “You have to be able to come through [on runners in scoring position], those alluded us.  When you miss those opportunities, you hope that they don’t come back to haunt you, but in this game, they did.”

Starting pitcher Cody Carroll officially only went for one-third of an inning.  Carroll started the game by hitting a batter and later gave up back-to-back singles and a walk.  Louisiana Tech capitalized on the bases loaded opportunity and took a 3-0 lead. A two-run double in the next inning gave the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead and forced Southern Miss to play catch up for the rest of the game.

Southern Miss scored a pair of runs in the third inning off a throwing error and a balk and scored one more run in the fifth inning. The Bulldogs took the game and series with three more runs in the eighth inning.

The Golden Eagles still can win the regular season conference championship with either one win against Marshall in the next weekend series or a loss from LA Tech.

“We have to win every game that we play,” Berry said. “That is the goal. Nothing changes.  You hope you learn from it and move forward which we have to do.  We have a good club.  I asked them to be mature about this loss and come back and understand how to win after this loss.  It’s easy to come back when you are winning but when you suffer a loss that’s when it defines who you are and what you make of this.”

Southern Miss will return to action on May 15 against the University of New Orleans, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.