FAYETTEVILLE—Dallas Baptist ended Southern Miss’ season as five home runs by the Patriots was too much for the Golden Eagles’ to overcome in a 9-4 loss.
“Today was a tough day,” head coach Scott Berry said. “Certainly we didn’t want to end it like we did. It always tough whenever that last one ends your season. We just didn’t come out and do the things we needed to do to play, especially in a do or die game. I think the biggest thing is we talk all the time about momentum. It’s a game of momentum. Certainly, they [DBU] got the momentum and kept it and we didn’t do anything to take it back.”
Dallas Baptist made quick work of starting pitcher Walker Powell by driving his pitch count to 80 pitches in the first four innings. Powell gave up five hits, three of which were solo home runs.
In the first two innings, Powell gave up two solo home runs to that allowed DBU to take a 2-0 lead. However, Southern Miss tied the game 2-2 from a two-run home run by Matthew Guidry in the third inning.
An error by LeeMarcus Boyd scored another run for the Patriots and another solo home run by DBU extended its lead to 8-2 with three more home runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Another run scored for the Patriots in the seventh inning on an RBI single. In Powell’s final stat line, he threw four innings and allowed four runs on five hits while striking out four.
“Those boys can hit, bottom line,” Powell said. “They were really disciplined at the plate [and] didn’t swing at a lot of balls outside of the zone. So, I had to pound the zone and when I did they jumped on it.”
Southern Miss put together a rally in the ninth inning with a two-run home run by Hunter Slater but the Golden Eagles could not overcome the deficit.
Dallas Baptist’s starting pitcher Luke Eldred kept Southern Miss bogged down over eight innings of work and held the Golden Eagles to four runs on five hits.
“He was all around the zone the whole game,” Guidry said. “One hundred and nineteen pitches through eight innings sounds like a lot but whenever he was throwing at the zone like he was and we were a little passive to start out the game trying to figure out what he was throwing. He had a good changeup which usually doesn’t play well for left-handed hitters from a right-handed pitcher. You look up and were three or four innings into the game and he’s getting out of innings pretty quickly.”
Southern Miss finishes the season with a 44-18 record and won both the conference regular season championship and the conference tournament for the second time in school history. The team’s appearance in the Fayetteville Regional marked the third consecutive year that Southern Miss qualified for the NCAA tournament and had at least 40 wins.
The team also had two All-Americans, which were Nick Sandlin, named as a first-team All-American and Luke Reynolds, named as a third-team All-American. Sandlin led the nation with a 1.06 ERA and was top 10 in strikeout-walk ratio with 144 strikeouts to 18 walks. Reynolds was named conference player of the year and led C-USA with a .400 batting average, .727 slugging percentage, .562 on-base percentage, was tied for first place in doubles with 20 and was second in home runs with 15. Gabe Montenegro was also named to the All-Freshman team.
Southern Miss will lose a total of six players to graduation, including LeeMarcus Boyd, Mason Irby and Daniel Keating in the starting lineup. The team will also lose relief pitchers Trent Driver and Keller Bradford, as well as utility player Casey Maack. However, Southern Miss will likely lose ace Sandlin and leading hitter Reynolds to the MLB draft.
Southern Miss should return most of its bullpen, along with starters Stevie Powers and Walker Powell. Although Southern Miss posted a 3.60 ERA, excluding the last game of the season, without Sandlin’s national leading ERA of 1.06, the team’s ERA falls to 4.19.
Despite the loss of Sandlin, the pitching staff should be able to upgrade as Colt Smith may return. Along with Smith is redshirt Drew Boyd, a probable future starter and Ryan Och, who has the potential to become a go-to bullpen pitcher. Southern Miss is also capable of reproducing its team batting average of .303 as key hitters Montenegro, Slater, Wallner and Guidry will return.
“We fell short of this goal here, of moving on to a Super Regional,” Berry said. “We return a lot of good ones, we’ve signed a lot of good ones, once again in August we’ll assemble them and well start getting them ready and try to put the pieces of that puzzle together. It’ll be a very competitive fall, I can assure you there. But with the people we have in place, it’s going to make everybody better.”