In front of a crowd of roughly 5,000 people, the Golden Eagles extended their winning streak to eight games after beating in-state rival Mississippi State 7 – 5.
“We’ve done some things that are good over the first 21 games,” said Head Coach Scott Berry. “It’s not just nine guys doing all the work, it’s the whole team. We just got to remain humble and stay the course.”
The Golden Eagles came out with a hot start, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning. State found itself in an early pitching jam after Dylan Burdeaux and Hunter Slater were both walked. Taylor Braley capitalized on State’s early pitching mistakes by doubling to score the first run of the game.
The Bulldogs’ pitching problems continued to benefit Southern Miss as two more Golden Eagles were walked, forcing a run to be walked in. Cole Donaldson extended the lead with a single to center that scored the final two runs of the inning.
Braley continued to show his dominance on the mound again by mowing down the Mississippi State batters in the first two innings but allowing a run in the third.
The Golden Eagles put together another rally in the third inning to extend their 4-1 lead. Casey Maack led the inning off with a double. LeeMarcus Boyd later singled to score Maack, and Burdeaux followed by hitting a double to drive in the final two runs of the inning. This gave the Golden Eagles a 7-1 lead.
Yet State managed to chip away at the lead as they tacked on another run in the fifth inning. However, the Bulldogs began to threaten the Golden Eagles’ lead in the eighth inning.
Braley found himself with the bases loaded with no outs in the eighth, forcing USM to dig in their bullpen to salvage the win.
Relief pitchers Trent Driver, Stevie Powers and Colt Smith all made appearances to keep the damage at a minimum and pick up all three outs. The Bulldogs put together a three-run rally to put the game at 7-5.
The Golden Eagles could not answer in the following inning, which gave the Bulldogs one last opportunity to at least force extra innings. But relief pitcher Matt Wallner killed all hopes for a Bulldog comeback as he retired all three batters in a row, striking the last one out.
Braley was the winning pitcher, as he allowed five runs on nine hits and had four strikeouts. Donaldson was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and Maack was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
“I was real proud the way the guys came out early on,” Berry said. “Hats off to Taylor Braley in his gutsy performance. He had to pitch out of some tough situations. He helped his team to hold on for a win.”
The Golden Eagles will face Marshall for their weekend series at home. First pitch will be at 6 p.m. on Friday.