With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and two Golden Eagles on base, catcher Cole Donaldson drove a single to shallow left field, bringing Matthew Guidry home and giving Southern Miss an 8-7 walk-off win over Florida Atlantic on Sunday. The win puts Southern Miss one game ahead of FAU for first place atop the Conference USA standings with an 18-6 record in league play and a 31-15 overall record.
“[I was] just trying to slow it down, keep it simple,” Donaldson said after his game-winning at-bat. “Kind of figured they were going to start doing some off-speed stuff. He threw me a fastball and I was able to handle it.”
Despite the series win by FAU with wins on Friday and Saturday, Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry talked about the importance of today’s win in terms of conference standing.
“One team was going to walk away with first place in the conference and the other was going away [with] second place,” Berry said. “In a sense, that was a championship feeling, I think you saw that in the play of both clubs.”
Like the first two games of the series, FAU took an early lead in the top of the second inning with an RBI single. Southern Miss was able to take a lead in the bottom of the third inning with a solo home run shot to left field by Hunter Slater.
The Golden Eagles were able to take a larger lead in the bottom of the fifth inning with four runs scored, including two RBI singles from Bryant Bowen and Erik Hoard and an RBI double from Guidry. One more run in the sixth inning gave Southern Miss a 7-3 advantage over the Owls.
However, FAU mounted a comeback in the seventh and eighth innings to tie the game up. One run in the seventh and three in the eighth put the score at 7-7. Defensively, reliever Hunter Stanley and the Southern Miss defense retired the side in the top of the ninth, giving the Golden Eagles an opportunity to score the winning run in the bottom frame of the ninth inning.
FAU recorded two quick outs on a Will McGillis strikeout and a fly out by Gabe Montenegro, but the Southern Miss offense found some life after that. Guidry hit a double to center field, and the Owls intentionally walked Slater, allowing Donaldson, who entered the game as a defensive replacement for Bowen at catcher in the eighth inning, to make the game-winning hit.
“A senior moment for Cole, we saw him walk it off against [Louisiana]-Lafayette two weeks ago, back 12 games ago, and today we see him put a good swing on the ball,” Berry said. “Today the ball bounced our way, and we won.”
Southern Miss out-hit the Owls 10-7 in the contest. Montenegro, Guidry and Slater each had two hits and RBI in the contest. Montenegro and Slater also accounted for the team’s two home runs on the day. Erick Hoard was also 2-for-4 with two RBI at the plate for Southern Miss.
On the mound, Stanley recorded the win, going two innings and allowing just one hit while recording three strikeouts. Starter Stevie Powers had five innings of work and allowed five hits, two runs and struck out four batters on 95 pitches.
J.C. Keys, Sean Tweedy and Alex Nelms also recorded relief appearances in the contest.
Up next for Southern Miss is a road series against Rice in Houston, Texas from May 10-12. First pitch for game one is set for 6:30 p.m. next Friday.