Senior James McMahon pitches against Florida Atlantic last weekend at Pete Taylor Park. The Golden Eagles recently beat Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday at home. Susan Broadbridge/Printz
Southern Miss continued its success against non-conference opponents Tuesday night with a 9-3 win over UL-Monroe, improving to 13-6-1 against teams outside of Conference USA.
The victory was fueled by impressive offensive outbursts in the sixth and eighth innings, scoring four and five runs, respectively.
The Warhawks got on the board first with a solo home run off the bat of Nathan Pugh, his third of the season. Pugh jumped on a first-pitch fastball that was left over the heart of the plate by USM starter Christian Talley and hit a towering shot to right center field.
Talley was expected to be the ace of the Golden Eagle pitching staff, but has struggled mightily this season and has been removed from the weekend rotation completely. Talley has pitched to a 2-5 record in 10 appearances (nine starts) with a 4.63 ERA, the lowest of any Golden Eagle pitcher who has logged more than four innings.
Talley’s biggest issue has been commanding his pitches all season and it came back to haunt him again in the fourth inning. He walked Justin Stawychny to leadoff the inning, who proceeded to steal second and score on two wild pitches. Talley lasted just four innings, allowing two runs on three hits, one walk and two costly wild pitches.
The Golden Eagle offense was held in check for the first five innings by ULM starter Payton Coddou, tallying just two hits off of him in that time. But USM finally got to him in the sixth, beginning with Connor Barron’s leadoff home run that changed the tide of the game.
“Connor’s home run kind of broke the ice for us. Up to that point, we really didn’t have very good at-bats,” said Southern Miss manager Scott Berry. “But Connor hit that ball really well and that got us going.”
The Golden Eagles got runners on first and second with one out before Coddou was lifted for Weston Mason, who did not fare much better. Tim Lynch connected on the first pitch he saw from Mason, driving the ball through the right side of the infield for an RBI single, tying the game at 2-2.
Chase Scott then loaded the bases for USM with a single to left field. Two batters later, Mason walked Austin Roussel, giving USM the lead before being replaced by Josh Leone.
Leone got off to a rough start, walking Nick Dawson for the fourth Golden Eagle run of the inning before settling in and getting the Warhawks into the eighth inning, down just one after Chase Stone narrowed the gap with an RBI single in the seventh.
However, Leone gave way to fellow reliever Connor Fiasco for the eighth inning, who stumbled to the worst appearance of his career. Fiasco threw just 14 pitches, walking all three batters he faced and was pulled from the game with the bases loaded and no outs.
Barron came to the plate with the idea of putting the Warhawks away for good, fouling off two pitches with big swings before he drew the fourth consecutive walk of the inning and brought Breck Kline in to score.
Michael Sterling followed with a sacrifice fly before Dylan Burdeaux and Matt Durst hit back-to-back RBI singles to break the game open. USM added one more run on a Lynch sacrifice fly before Clay Targeant and Ryan Milton put the game away on the mound for the Golden Eagles in the ninth.
Seven different Golden Eagle starters tallied an RBI with Barron and Lynch each picking up two. The offense drew eight walks, showing great discipline at the dish. Five USM relievers combined to pitch five innings of three-hit ball, allowing just one run. Connor O’Brien picked up the first win of his Golden Eagle career with 1.2 innings of work.
Southern Miss (22-14-1, 9-8 C-USA) will look to make up ground in the conference standings against UTSA this weekend, who currently sits just a half-game ahead of USM.
The Golden Eagles are just 4.5 games back of conference frontrunner Middle Tennessee State and have the chance to inch closer in the three-game set against UTSA.