With the score tied 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning during Game 2 of a doubleheader against Gonzaga, Fred Franklin stole second base with one out. However, Southern Miss could not capitalize on the opportunity, as Gonzaga flipped the script with a four-run 10th inning to take Game 2 against Southern Miss 10-8 and win the series in the process.
It was the second time on the day that Southern Miss put itself in a position to win. In the first game, Southern Miss trailed 4-2 but put runners at first and second base with one out in the ninth inning. However, the Golden Eagles were unable to take advantage of that situation, as the next two batters struck out to end the game.
“It’s very frustrating,” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said. “I know we have good players. Right now, we’re lacking the confidence to win at the Division I level in these kinds of games, especially against these teams. We knew out of the first 11 games, 10 of the 11, [we were] going to be playing against regional teams from last year. We didn’t get to play Troy, so we’re sitting here at 4-5 in those nine games. We didn’t fare too well as a program that faced a very tough schedule at the beginning.”
The main issue for Southern Miss was the fact that both starting pitchers combined for 1.2 innings pitched. Game 2 starter Mason Strickland was pulled after giving allowing three runs on five hits and starter Stevie Powers left the first game of the day with an injury.
“First pitch felt something in his [latissimus dorsi] (back muscle),” Berry said. “It just kept kind of contracting back there. We had to go to the pen early and [we weren’t] ready for that one. That snowballed into a bunch of others, so we used a lot of pitching.”
As a result, the Golden Eagles used 10 pitchers from the bullpen between the two games. The bullpen allowed three runs despite giving up 11 hits in Game 1 but allowed six earned runs off of six hits in Game 2.
Despite the issues with starting pitching, Berry was pleased with the pitching staff overall.
“Pitching has been outstanding,” Berry said. “They gave us a chance there. We kind of faltered there late in this game. When you’re not scoring runs and you keep throwing zeros it takes its toll on you for sure.”
The other issue for Southern Miss was offensive production. In the first game, the Golden Eagles were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. In game two, Southern Miss was 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position. To add to it, Southern Miss outhit Gonzaga 13-11 in game two.
Since the start of the season, the Golden Eagles have left nine runners on base on average. Southern Miss has batted .250 (11-for-44) with runners in scoring position in three games since the Mississippi State series. For comparison, Southern Miss hit .382 (18-for-47) with runners in scoring position in the Purdue series.
“Kind of the same old situation,” Berry said. “We create opportunities for [ourselves] and we don’t take advantage of them. It’s one thing to not put yourself in a place to score runs but we do and we’re just not getting that hit, we’re not getting that step up by an [at-bat]. We’re giving [at-bats] away in times where we need to use them more in our favor.”
Additionally, the five-game losing streak is the longest Southern Miss has faced since 2013. The Golden Eagles finished that season with a 30-27 record.
“We came out with the intensity to win, but we came out with the same result,” Berry said. “Just missed opportunities. We could’ve put this game away. Gonzaga is good. Obviously, they are not going to let you [put the game away] and we saw that today.”
First pitch for Sunday’s game is scheduled for 10 a.m.