Wallner breaks home run record in series loss to UAB

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Matt Wallner hits two home runs against UAB. Photo by: Noah Martin

Matt Wallner made what would have been a forgettable game memorable. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Wallner hit a two-run home run, his second of the day, over the center field wall. The two-run home run made Wallner the all-time home runs leader in Southern Miss history surpassing Marc Maddox (2003-2006) and bringing his total to 54 in his career.

“What a special young man,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “Fifty-four home runs a new leader in only three years of play here and with at least two games. That’s pretty remarkable because there have been some really good hitters that have been here and played four years.”

Wallner hit a solo homer earlier in the first inning that tied the record and put the Golden Eagles up 2-0. UAB then intentionally walked Wallner twice and also hit him prior to his record-breaking at-bat.

“I was just trying to keep it simple,” Wallner said. “I actually took a pitch. I kind of jabbed at it a little bit with my hands. [I thought] ‘it’s alright calm down, calm down. I know what I’m doing. I’m diving at the ball and I’m going to miss it.’ So I just tried to relax my hands and relax my body and see a pitch up and fortunately enough I got one and got it up there and was able to get it to go.”

It was the third two-run homer game for Wallner this year and also ties the most home runs he has hit in a season at 19 which dates back to his freshman season.

“I’m thankful for everyone that has put the time in for me, but I’m just focused on winning the tournament,” Wallner said. “If I don’t hit a home run for the rest of the year but we win the tournament and keep on going I’m happy with that. That’s the center of my focus right now.”

Had it not been for Wallner’s home runs it would have easily been a forgetful day for the Golden Eagles (34-19, 20-10 C-USA). It was an ugly seventh inning that made the difference in Southern Miss’ 12-4 loss to UAB (27-29, 12-18 C-USA) on Saturday.

The Blazers needed just four of their 17 hits to score six runs in the frame all of which scored on two-outs. Southern Miss went through four different pitchers before getting out of the inning.

“We could just not find an answer for them at all honesty,” Berry said. “Every hole that was available they seem to hit it. They started some runners up and they hit through the four hole [with] a bloop hit over there. It’s baseball. We weren’t able to have an answer for them and keep them in check and give us a chance.”

Southern Miss jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a run being driven in by Hunter Slater and Wallner’s home run. UAB responded with a two-run home run in the second inning and jumping out to a 5-2 lead by the fourth inning.

The Golden Eagles answered back with a pair of runs in the fifth inning cutting the score to 5-4.

After UAB’s big seventh inning, Southern Miss scored four more runs. Slater knocked in three of those runs with a three-run home run and Cole Donaldson hitting a double.

In the ninth inning, UAB scored a run on a sac fly and Wallner closed the day out with his record-breaking home run.

In total, Southern Miss went through six different pitchers with the infield giving up three errors. Wallner finished 2-for-2 with three RBI and has now reached base 10 times in a row and Slater finished 2-for-4 with five RBI.

“It’s no secret what we have to do. We have got to come together as a team and just go forward into Biloxi and try and get momentum going there,” Wallner said. “It’s only up from here honestly. I’m hoping we can get it together here and I think we can.”

Southern Miss will now look ahead to Biloxi and compete in the Conference USA tournament. The second-seeded Golden Eagles will face seventh-seeded Rice (24-31, 14-16 C-USA) to open the tournament. First pitch is set for 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22.