USM offense explodes in C-USA tourney opening
Southern Miss dominated Old Dominion in their first game in the C-USA tournament, putting 17 runs on the scoreboard against the Monarchs, defeating ODU 17-5 by run rule.
Southern Miss started the game with an offensive explosion, racking up four runs on five hits in just the first inning. ODU pitcher Victor Diaz gave up the runs early on the scoreboard, but his team helped relinquish the lead in the subsequent inning scoring 5 runs of their own.
Cord Cockrell started the game for Southern Miss after coming off of a three inning outing against Florida International the weekend before the tournament. He was not under a pitching count, barring injury, but did not perform up to his lofty standards set by him earlier in the regular season.
After blanking Old Dominion for no hits in the first inning, Cockrell gave up five runs on five hits in the second. Cockrell did not show any signs of injury on the mound against the Monarchs, but Jake Winston was called on in the second to finish the job for him with the Golden Eagles down 5-4.
“It’s going to be week-to-week with him,” said coach Scott Berry. “Tip your hat to Old Dominion, they put some good swings on mistake pitches [by Cockrell].”
With a deficit heading into the bottom of the second inning, the Golden Eagles fought back to put up two runs and retake the lead, 6-5. In that inning, Dylan Burdeaux extended his seven-game hitting streak with two or more hits in a game en route to leading USM to put up two more runs in that inning.
Southern Miss again plated two runs in the fourth inning due to the pitching of Joey Benitez. He walked three batters, including two straight to give the Golden Eagles an 8-5 advantage.
On the other side, USM blanked ODU for the next five innings after giving up five runs in the second.
“I’m real proud of our offense how we went on to score four of the next five innings to keep the momentum going,” Berry said. “All those at-bats added up and played a huge role in this win.”
On the heels of their two scores in the fourth, Southern Miss propelled to put up eight more runs in the fifth inning.
Tim Lynch knocked his first career grand slam over the right field wall to give Southern Miss three players with at least 10 home runs in a season for the first time since 2006. That grand slam put Southern Miss up 12-5 in the fifth inning.
“It was a big moment in the game [and[ kind of put the nail in the coffin,” Lynch said. “You could say it gave us a lot more breathing room.”
The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 16-5 lead by the end of the fifth set of the contest. The Monarchs were reeling for an answer to avoid the run rule.
“Every coach here would love to have the run rule if they could to save their pitches and to save their team,” Berry said. “We weren’t stopping. The foot was going to stay on the pedal.”
Southern Miss dominated the game offensively and with efficient pitching. Winston pitched four innings and gave up a single hit and struck out three Monarch batters.
On offense, Dylan Burdeaux plated three runs on three hits. Lynch added two hits himself including his grand slam at the plate. Not to be outdone, three other Southern Miss batters all recorded two RBIs or more in the contest.
This offensive showing was not something that could have been predicted in the team’s last showing against FIU in Miami before the tournament.
“For our guys to come out and be able to put that weekend behind us and open up with a new season in this conference tournament, I was really, really pleased of the way our team responded today,” Berry said.
At the end of the fifth inning offensive explosion by USM and another run added in the sixth, the Golden Eagles had beaten Old Dominion 17-5 by run rule.
Southern Miss will play the winner of Florida International-Marshall on Thursday night. First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m.