Southern Miss wins C-USA Championship, qualifies to NCAA tournament

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The Southern Miss baseball team wins the 2019 Conference USA tournament in Biloxi, MS. Photo by: Makayla Puckett

BILOXI— “Playing for a ring. You can go a little bit more when something is on the line like that,” Walker Powell said.

Starters Walker Powell and Stevie Powers, who both had previously made starts in the conference tournament, returned to the mound and set up Southern Miss’ (38-19) 4-0 win over Florida Atlantic in the C-USA championship tournament game.

“Yesterday afternoon Walker looked at me and said ‘We going tomorrow?’ and I said ‘yeah we going tomorrow,” Powers said. “It was the right call for him to get the ball first and get us out of the gate. He’s our number one guy. I told Coach [Christian Ostrander] I said ‘Listen if it’s one batter or three innings I got you whatever you need.’ We were just locked and loaded and ready to go today.”

Powell, who had previously thrown 91 pitches against Rice in Game 1 of the tournament, made the start for Southern Miss. In four innings, Powell struck out two batters, gave up just five hits holding the Owls scoreless in 47 pitches.

Powell’s only trouble came in the first inning, but a key double play ended FAU’s threat.

Following Powell, was Sean Tweedy who made two previous appearances in the tournament. Tweedy in 1.1 innings pitched allowed just one hit, but in the sixth inning gave up one-out walk and single.

From there Powers took the mound. In his previous start against Marshall, Powers threw 63 pitches in 3.2 innings against Marshall. Powers held FAU scoreless allowing just two hits in 26 pitches of 2.2 innings of work and recorded the win.

Closing out the game was was Cody Carroll and Hunter Stanley who pitched out of the inning to record the save.

Despite being outhit by FAU 10-7, Southern Miss’ pitching staff combined for a 19-inning shutout in the tournament which is longest of the season and stranded 11 Owl runners. In the tournament, the Golden Eagles staff combined for a 1.46 ERA, gave up 26 hits allowed nine earned runs, struck out 36 batters and walked 12.

“Pitching staff, what can you say?” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “Eighteen shutout innings over the last two days. Nine innings of no-hit ball yesterday. I think Florida Atlantic probably has the best offensive approach of any team we played this year. To keep them off the board, which was the first time this year I believe, was pretty incredible by our guys.”

Southern Miss runs came in timely spreads. In the second inning, Danny Lynch hit an RBI single with two outs. In the third inning, Wallner hit an RBI single and a fielder’s choice scoring another run to extend the Golden Eagles’ 3-0 lead. In the seventh inning, Guidry drove in a run on an RBI single.

Although Southern Miss had timely hitting, Berry said that his team’s defense proved to be the most crucial part of the win.

“I think the storyline was the timely hitting but it was [also] the defense we played today,” Berry said. “Think about Fred Franklin’s catch in centerfield, think about the double play in the bottom of the first, think about all those things that our pitching staff allowed us to do and I think that’s where you found out how we won.”

The Golden Eagles had five members named to the All-Tournament team which were Danny Lynch, Fred Franklin, Walker Powell, Gabe Shepard and Matt Wallner being named MVP of the tournament.

The win also automatically qualifies Southern Miss for the NCAA tournament.

“They say get hot at the right time and right now is the right time,” Powers said. “We’re going to the selection show tomorrow and see where we end up. We’re going to get ready for next week. Wherever we go they have something coming for them.”

Southern Miss will host a watch party in Hattiesburg at Walk On’s for the ESPN Selection Show at 11 a.m.

Southern Miss wins C-USA Championship, qualifies to NCAA tournament