Grindin’ it out
USM coach Scott Berry was not pleased on Friday night.
Weather permitting, the Golden Eagles were slated to play a three-game series with the Marshall Thundering Herd at Pete Taylor Park this past weekend. The Golden Eagles understand that with the Rating Percentage Index (RPI) playing such a crucial role in the postseason play of all collegiate baseball teams, home series’ are crucial.
The first game went according to plan even though it went extra innings, as USM pulled out a 5-3 win in 11 innings. The second game, although, did not go the way Southern Miss wanted and Berry was not pleased.
“There were some things that we self-destructed,” Berry said. “We had a chance, we just didn’t get it done. There were little things that we didn’t do well.”
The Golden Eagles held onto a 6-3 lead late into the eighth inning, but then proceeded to give up a four-run eighth frame to open their lead to 7-6 on Southern Miss. That inning was a catalyst of the day that USM was having on not just defense, but on offense.
“We had a chance to continue to seize that momentum and we didn’t,” Berry said. “I felt like offensively, we did not put together many good at-bats the whole day. We were swinging at stuff that was out of the zone, we were getting ourself out.”
Coming into game three, the Golden Eagles knew that they had to adopt a new mentality if they were going to record a series win against a Marshall team looking to score the upset.
“With a 1-1 series, you always have to come out like you’re down 0-2,” said second baseman Storme Cooper. “We would’ve like to sweep so we were kind of mad about it. We kind of wanted to bring that out on the field today. Bury them.”
Burying them is what USM did as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Dylan Burdeaux and Daniel Keating both homered in the frame, with Taylor Braley advancing home on a passed ball. But, USM did not retain the early lead as Marshall cut the lead to 3-2 at the top of the second inning.
Marshall was again looking to come back from USM’s early offensive onslaught. When USM would jump ahead by several runs, the Thundering Herd would run out to equal the side. But, one message from Berry the day prior played back in the heads of those Golden Eagles.
“You got to recover and the only way to recover is to win,” Berry said. “You come out from the first inning on and you play hard, lock yourself in, you give the effort and you do the things you’re supposed to do to when baseball games.”
USM recovered greatly and handled Marshall by run rule in the eighth inning, winning 13-3. Emotion drove the Golden Eagles, but their bats were hot during the day.
“There was a lot of emotion in that game, extra inning game one, extra inning game two,” said outfielder Mason Irby. “We knew we have to come out and put it behind us and get the series.”
After winning the series in blowout fashion, there was only one word to describe the USM attitude: Grind.
“It was just a grind today,” said Hayden Roberts, who guided USM with 7.1 innings pitched, giving up only five hits and striking out seven batters. “You have to win the series — especially at home. I’m glad our offense came back and put up 13 [runs].”
USM will play South Alabama on Tuesday at Pete Taylor Park. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.