For 256 days, loyal Southern Miss fans have waited for the baseball drought to end. On Feb. 14-16, the Golden Eagles swept Murray State for their home opener.
“It’s kind of laid back right now. We are having a real good time. I don’t know if fans can see it, but we are always cutting up and enjoying being together,” senior captain Matthew Guidry said. “It’s easy [to keep people motivated] when you have guys like this in the dugout. Everybody is enjoying watching each other succeed.”
After six scoreless innings on Friday, Charlie Fischer, Reed Trimble and Gabe Montenegro were walked, filling the bases for Fisher Norris. Norris reached first on a walk, allowing Hunter LeBlanc to score for Fischer. Guidry did the same, which allowed Trimble to score. Following a pitching change by Murray State, Will McGillis singled to the right field, bringing Montenegro and Norris home. Danny Lynch followed with another single to the right, which allowed Guidry to score. Lynch then stole second, and Brant Blaylock stole home for the last run of the game.
Southern Miss shutout the Racers with Gabe Shepard allowing just one hit in his 6.2 innings on the mound. Ryan Och registered the win after pitching the final 2.1 innings.
Following the 6-0 win, McGillis injured his hamstring, which took him out of the starting lineup for the second game.
“I didn’t want to push it [with McGillis]. He’s probably 50% running, and he was fine hitting. Actually, if I had to use him as a walk-off at the plate without him having to run to first base, I was going to,” head coach Scott Berry said. “It’s too long of a year and not enough people.”
Leading off for Southern Miss on Saturday, junior left fielder Montenegro was walked after his hand was hit by a pitch. Guidry was also walked allowing Montenegro to steal second base. Blaylock sent Montenegro home and Guidry to third after advancing to first on an error.
Montenegro attempted to play through the pain in his hand by taking the field in the top of the second. However, Hunter LeBlanc pinch hit for Montenegro who appeared in the dugout in a black sweatshirt in the bottom of the inning. With no official diagnosis after game two, Montenegro was taken for x-rays. Berry said he hoped to have him back on the field soon.
“We were hoping that he would get the feeling back. He just didn’t have any strength there,” Berry said. “[Montenegro] said, ‘Let me go out and try to work through it.’ I was concerned because it was his glove side. We put him out there, but when he came in it was still pretty painful.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Blaylock scored after Trimble flew out to center field. Fischer hit a single to the left and allowed Guidry to score from second in the bottom of the eighth.
Walker Powell spent seven innings on the mound allowing six hits but no runs. Hunter Stanley finished the job allowing two hits, two runs and two errors in his two innings.
“I felt good. Physically, my body felt good. My arm felt good. It was just good to get that first one out of the way,” Powell said. “We don’t really think about [the lineup] as pitchers. We just think about going out there and throwing up zeros.”
On Sunday, Montenegro was back in the lineup and Chandler Best made his first career start on the mound.
Best allowed two runs in the top of the first. In the bottom of the second, Dustin Dickerson reached first on an error allowing Charlie Fischer to score. Next, Montenegro singled to the right to send Andrew Stanley home.
In the top of the third, Murray State scored one run. Matt Adams replaced Best on the mound. Blaylock made it home after Lynch also reached second on an error in the bottom of the inning. A double by Fischer brought Lynch home.
After Sean Tweedy came in to replace Adams, Murray State scored three times in the top of the sixth. The Golden Eagles responded with three runs in the bottom of the seventh. A double by Norris in the bottom of the eighth sent Guidry home for a final run for the game.
Southern Miss will host the University of New Orleans on Feb. 18 at 6 p.m.
All Photos by Bethany Morris