Cooper comes up big in 6-4 comeback win over Rice

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Storme Cooper walks in the dugout after scoring the tying run. Photo by: Andrew Abadie

BILOXI— Stepping into the bottom of the ninth with two outs and bases loaded trailing 4-2, Storme Cooper stepped into a familiar position that he found himself in a few times early on in his career.

Cooper hit a two-run RBI double against Rice in the first round of the C-USA tournament that helped the Golden Eagles pull a comeback 6-4 win over the Owls on Wednesday.

“It’s hard. You have to be in the game when you are not in the game, “Cooper said. “You got to get in that box when you just hop off that bench. It’s really hard. You have to keep your mind in the game.”

It was Cooper’s first appearance in the game, but the senior has been a part of several game-changing situations with a pair of walk-offs in 2017 and back in 2016 knocked in the go-ahead run against Rice the C-USA tournament’s championship game against the Owls.

“I was on first base my freshman year and Storme was [designated hitting] the first weekend,” Matt Wallner said. “There was a guy on second with two outs and coach [Chad] Caillet looked at me and said ‘Storme has got this. Storme is clutch.’ Ever since then Storme is clutch and I know he is going to get the clutch hit.”

Following his double, Jacob Edwards scored the game-tying run off a wild pitch that forced the game into extra innings.

“The game of baseball is a game of opportunity,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “It’s not a game of failure. Storme has been sitting over in the [dugout] and seeing a lot more than he has been playing a lot. For him to come up with an opportunity right and deliver like he did. You can’t say enough for that senior right there. Especially for that moment.”

Prior to the ninth inning, Rice had full control as the Owls jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Rice scored a run in the first inning, two more scored in the third inning off a two-run homer and another scoring off a double in the seventh inning.

The Owls were riding off the arm of C-USA pitcher of the year Matt Canterino who in 6.2 innings gave up just three hits, walked two batters and struck out nine batters.

“Give credit to Canterino,” Berry said. “Preseason pitcher of the year and ended up being the pitcher of the year that tough to go from start to finish and do it. Today he was really good. He had us chasing balls out of the zone and a lot of deception.”

However as soon as Canterino came off the mound, Southern Miss capitalized as pinch hitter Erick Hoard got the Golden Eagles on the board with an RBI double to make the game 4-1.

Following Cooper’s heroics, reliever Cody Carroll took care of business against the Owls. In three innings of relief, he walked a batter, allowed just one hit and struck out two.

This set up Wallner’s walk-off, two-run home run.

“As soon as Wallner got to the plate I knew he was going to barrel a ball,” Cooper said. “He got it up in the air and I knew it was going to carry.”

For a fourth straight game in a row, Wallner homered and picked up his 20th home run of the season.

“I guess I made it worked when it counted so I’m just proud of our guys for coming back for Storme and all the big hits we got that put me in the position to be able to do that,” Wallner said.

Southern Miss will play Marshall in the winner’s bracket of the second round of the C-USA tournament on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.