Southern Miss takes series against Rice, 2-1

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Southern Miss took a series win over Rice, but Head Coach Scott Berry and the Golden Eagles have to find a way to finish games and complete a series sweep at that.

Junior right-hander Nick Sandlin started the series off on Friday, providing a career-high eight-inning performance that held the Owls to just one unearned run on two hits. Rice gifted four straight bases loaded walks, and shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd’s two- run double in the eighth inning put it all to rest. This led Southern Miss to a 12-1 route of the Owls to start the weekend.

Game two of the series changed gears but ultimately ended with the same outcome for the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss allowed Rice to rally late and take a 7-2 lead after a six-run eighth inning. Capped off by a two-run RBI single from third baseman Luke Reynolds, the Golden Eagles managed to score five two-out runs that sent the game into extra innings. Matt Wallner ended things in the 12th inning with a walk-off single, giving the Golden Eagles an 8-7 win.

Reynolds was not a starter Saturday due to a minor left hamstring injury he suffered during the series opener. Nonetheless, the tying run scored as he hobbled his way to first – a hit that allowed Southern Miss to fight another day and take advantage in the 12th.

“I told Coach Berry, if you need me – I got you,” Reynolds said. “I was locked in from then on just waiting for that moment. When it happened, I had already mentally visualized it. Luckily I got a pitch I can hit and got barrel to it.”

The narrative changed once Southern Miss saw another series sweep turn sour at the hands of Rice during Sunday’s series finale. Southern Miss is a top-tier team nationally, but it is still searching for a consistent method of controlling the lead down the stretch. In the series finale, the Golden Eagles rode a commanding 6-2 lead into the eighth inning, headlined with Wallner’s second grand slam of the year in the bottom of the fifth. Rice scored five runs in the eighth inning against three different Southern Miss relief pitchers to take the 7-6 win and avoid being swept.

“We didn’t hit good today, but pitching needs to be better,” starting pitcher Walker Powell said in reference to Sunday’s loss. “We need to throw more strikes, myself included. In the back end of a lot of games, we don’t do a good job of competing. We give up leads we shouldn’t.”

Earlier in the season the Golden Eagles failed to complete a series sweep against UT-Martin. Just last week Ole Miss rallied past a 5-0 deficit to beat Southern Miss and now Rice salvages the final game of a series. Southern Miss has to find a way to finish games if it wants to continue climbing the national ladder.

Southern Miss (19-7, 6-2 C-USA) will host Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday and Wednesday in pair of midweek games – both scheduled with a first pitch set for 6 p.m.