For their second home series, the Southern Miss baseball team faced Central Arkansas from Feb. 21 to Feb. 23.
In the top of the first, Central Arkansas put two runs on the board with a double from Connor Emmet, bringing home Ryan Meek. Afterwards, a single to right by Ben Ayala brought Emmet home. The Bears expanded their lead in the top of the third with two more runs. Ayala’s single up the middle allowed both Emmet and Beau Orlando to score.
“We should have been out of that [first] inning with nothing,” head coach Scott Berry said. “In the third inning, we had a chance to turn a double play to be two out with nobody on, but, as a result. we weren’t and they stayed alive to get some swings on [Gabe] Shephard.”
The Friday night starter, Shepard, spent just 2.2 innings on the mound, allowing four hits, four runs and four errors. However, he also had six strikeouts.
Another unanswered run in the top of the fifth came after Nathaniel Sagdahl singled up the middle, allowing Ayala to score. Josh Ragan doubled to left to bring home Emmet in the top of the seventh. Danny Lynch put the Golden Eagles on the board in the bottom of the inning with a homerun to right.
Reed Trimble stepped up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and singled to the center to allow Dustin Dickerson to score. Matthew Guidry, up next, then singled to left to bring home Gabe Montenegro from second. Still, the Golden Eagles lost their first game of the season 6-3.
“The biggest thing [for game 2] is that you wake up in the morning and realize you just lost a baseball game for the first time this year and understanding what it takes to come out and win a baseball game,” Berry said. “We have to want to come out here and defend our home.”
On Saturday, Lynch singled to right in the bottom of the first, allowing Guidry to score from second. Will McGillis extended the Golden Eagles’ lead with a homerun to left field in the bottom of the fourth.
Central Arkansas scored in the top of the fifth when Ragan homered, bringing in Cole Fiori as well. Reed Trimble grounded out in the bottom, but Dickerson was still able to reach home. Charlie Fischer flied out to center in the bottom of the eighth, but Guidry scored again, giving Southern Miss a two run lead.
The Bears tied the game in the ninth with a single from Hicks as well as Ragan. Fischer hit a walk- off single in the bottom of the tenth inning to bring Blaylock home and secure the 5-4 win.
“He was throwing soft stuff the last two innnings, and obviously he got me on the fastball the inning before, so I had to come back to it and luckily I was able to put the barrell to it,” Fischer said. “I saw Brant on second, and I wanted to have him score again just because he was supposed to pinch run for me the inning before. And I flew out, so I figured we could have some fun again.”
Searching for a series win, the Southern Miss offense heated up in Sunday’s game. Fischer hit a home run to left in the top of the second, which Hunter LeBlanc added to with a single that brought Fisher Norris and Dickerson home.
Hunter Hicks hit a double for the Bears, which brought in two runners. Coby Potvin flew out to left, allowing Orlando to score in the third. Dickerson then doubled, which also brought in two runners. Guidry walked after he was hit by a pitch filling the bases, allowing Brian Davis to score.
“[Dickerson] is playing well,” Guidry, a second year team captain, said. “He came out last weekend, and he was nervous and excited, but he’s doing well. He’s really improving. You can tell he’s letting go of the anxiety a little bit, but he’s really coming into his own.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Guidry singled, giving the Golden Eagles two more runs with Montenegro and Dickerson crossing the plate. Southern Miss clinched the series with an 8-6 win on Sunday.
Following freshman Chandler Best’s 2.1 innings, freshman Ben Ethridge took the mound for four innings allowing six hits, two runs and two errors, but striking out six, earning him the win.
“I just go out there and give it everything I have,” Ethridge said. “No matter the situation, I just go out there and give it my all and give what they want from me to stay out there as long as I can.”
With Drew Boyd, Matthew Adams and Sean Tweedy out with the flu, Berry is adjusting his pitching staff accordingly. Adding to the injury list, Trimble sprained his ankle coming around first base early in game three.
“We were really shallow in the bullpen with the flu going around and we were missing a lot of key pieces that we normally wouldn’t worry about,” Berry said.
The Golden Eagles will return home for a series against Little Rock March 6-8.