The Golden Eagles traveled to the Cox Diamond Invitational this past weekend to not only participate in the festivities, but to also sweep the competition.
Southern Miss was reeling going into the weekend. After starting off their season 7-0 with wins over Eastern Illinois, New Orleans and Northwestern State, the team dropped two straight against a South Alabama team that came into the contest with only one loss. It was a valiant effort from both teams, but USM was not able to rise to the occasion.
They would look to turn the tide in the Invitational with contests against Michigan State, Troy and Auburn in a three-game weekend.
Pitching would rule the first game against the Spartans, as both teams combined for only two runs scored. Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, they were the victors winning the contest 2-0.
“I’m real proud of the way our team grinder that one out,” said coach Scott Berry. “We missed on some opportunities, but the storyline was certainly the pitching behind Cord Cockrell.”
Cockrell carried the Golden Eagles on his back by registering a career-high eight strikeouts in seven innings pitched. He gave up four hits as he faced 25 batters.
Not to be outdone, Nick Johnson pitched two innings himself and gave up only one hit while striking out three batters.
On the other side, Cam Vieaux downed four batters and only gave up five hits. To Vieux’s detriment, one of those hits that he gave up led to a Storme Cooper single to drive in Chase Scott for his ninth RBI on the young season.
Later in the contest, USM would again score with a Tracey Hadley triple to start off the eighth inning. Tim Lynch took a sacrifice fly to drive in Hadley to put the Golden Eagles up 2-0.
The Golden Eagles carried over that momentum against Troy, where the offense would explode.
Southern Miss would have a total of 12 hits, and four Golden Eagles had two hits each.
USM got on the board first in the second inning when designated hitter Hunter Slater doubled out off the pitch. Storme Cooper would bunt in the next at-bat, and Nick Dawson drove Slate in with a groundout to right field.
Troy would not be outdone though, after Joey Denison took a pitch to the body, subsequently stole second, and scored on a teammate’s double. The score was 1-1 between both teams until the sixth inning.
Catcher Chuckie Robinson homered to left field in the sixth to make the score 2-1. In the next inning, Jake Sandlin drove in Dylan Burdeaux for the third run in the game, making the score 3-1.
That did not put the game out of reach, but Troy was not able to answer the bell and the Trojans were downed 6-2.
Southern Miss would be out-hit by a margin of seven to two, and still manage to outscore the Auburn Tigers in the Invitational finale, 3-1.
“Both teams played well,” Berry said. “We just capitalized on a few things that they did. Sometimes you don’t capitalize, but today we did.”
USM went deep into their bullpen using three pitchers, and limited Auburn to just one run on a single in the third inning. After that scoring possession for the Tigers, it was all Southern Miss.
It started in the fourth inning after Lynch and Taylor Braley were both walked. Then, Auburn misplayed a Scott bunt that loaded the bases, and the next batter, Claudio Rubiera, grounded out to a double play, but not before bringing in Lynch for the score.
USM would score again with runs in the seventh and eighth innings, putting the Golden Eagles ahead up 3-1. Auburn would never go on to catch up to that lead.
The Southern Miss bullpen was in full effect, as pitchers Kirk McCarty, Luke Lowery and Nick Sandlin as they pitched a combined seven hits, two walks and 11 strikeouts in the contest.
Southern Miss completed the sweep after the weekend, and now look to extend their record past 10-2 when they travel to Hammond, Louisiana to take on Southeastern on March 9.