Southern Miss Baseball began its much anticipated season last week after a 348-day hiatus, winning two of three games against Northwestern State.
The Golden Eagles’ pitching staff shone throughout the series, recording 45 strikeouts in three games.
Hunter Stanley, in his first start at Southern Miss, recorded 13 strikeouts, breaking the record for most strikeouts in an opening game over Head Coach Scott Berry’s 12-year tenure.
“It’s an honor to be the opening day starter. […] I was nervous going in,” Stanley said. “I’ve started a lot in my career before, but obviously my first start for Southern Miss [is different]. I was nervous but I was excited too.”
Stanley started strong, recording seven strikeouts throughout the first three innings. He allowed a double in the second, but did not allow another hit for the remainder of his playing time.
“He was really good on the mound tonight, filled up the zone, […] covering six innings for us, he was very sharp for the first time out,” Head Coach Scott Berry said. “He was the difference in Game One.”
After Stanley gave the Demons the run-around at the beginning of the game, Christopher Sargent hit an RBI single to send Gabe Montenegro home for the Golden Eagles’ first run of the year.
Southern Miss got on the board again in the bottom of the fourth as DJ Lynch hit a two-run home run. Montenegro hit an RBI single in the seventh inning, and then Sargent hit a double to score Montenegro, giving the Golden Eagles a 5-0 advantage.
The Demons responded with its first run of the game by Kendall Foster, but the Golden Eagles retired Northwestern to win the game 5-1.
Southern Miss’s pitchers continued to impress in the second game with a record-tying 19 strikeouts, but the Golden Eagles struggled in hitting and lost 7-1.
“Northwestern State, being the program they are, they had to try to get that momentum back,” Berry said. “It was our job to keep it with us and we didn’t do a good enough job to do that and didn’t do anything during the game to try to even get any momentum.”
The Demons started the second game with the advantage, as Marshall Skinner hit an RBI double in the first and Foster hit a solo home run in the second.
Chandler Best and the rest of the Golden Eagles struggled in the third inning, allowing three runs and four hits. Ben Ethridge replaced Best in the third, finally helping to stop the Demons’ attack. Ethridge marked one of the few bright spots for Southern Miss in Game Two, recording 12 strikeouts total.
“I thought Ethridge did an outstanding job coming in out of the bullpen and keeping the score where we needed him to try to get our offense back,” Berry said.
Southern Miss got its first hit in the fourth inning on a single from Slade Wilks, but the Golden Eagles remained scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, as Lynch scored on a passed ball. Southern Miss retired the inning with the bases loaded.
Gabe Shepard replaced Ethridge in the ninth inning as pitcher, but was shortly replaced by Justin Storm after allowing two hits and throwing a wild pitch.
Storm allowed a run, but the Golden Eagles prevented the Demons from scoring again with a double play.
The Golden Eagles did not get the comeback it hoped for in the final inning, though, and the Demons retired Southern Miss to win.
“They did what they had to do, but I just feel like that our competitive side of us didn’t show Game Two like it needs to,” Berry said.
Working off one win and one loss, Southern Miss improved its hitting in its final game against Northwestern and ended the series with a 10-run mercy rule in the seventh inning.
Reed Trimble was a vital asset for the Golden Eagles in Game Three as he hit two three-run home runs and tied his career-high of six RBIs.
“I was just so happy to be back here,” Trimble said about the series. “I really just wanted to win this one and help the team win.”
Montenegro also scored from Sargent’s RBI, putting Southern Miss up 2-0 by scoring on a fielder’s choice to begin the game.
Southern Miss seemed to have learned from Game Two, as it passed its hit total from the second game in two innings. Trimble hit his first home run, boosting the Golden Eagles to a 5-0 lead.
“We had that sense of urgency,” Berry said about Game Three’s hitting accuracy.
Drew Boyd held the Demons scoreless throughout the game and broke his career-high for strikeouts in the third. Boyd finished with nine strikeouts total, with only two hits allowed in five innings pitched before Matthew Adams replaced him on the mound.
“It was nice to finally be out there and compete,” Boyd said. He noted that the fastball worked as his main pitch against the Demons.
McGillis scored on a sacrifice fly from Johnson in the third. Trimble then added his second home run, giving the Golden Eagles a 9-0 lead.
The Demons stopped Southern Miss from scoring in the fourth, but the Golden Eagles ended the game in the seventh inning. Garrity walked to first with loaded bases, sending Johnson home to win 10-0.
Southern Miss will play home in a three-game series versus the University of Connecticut starting Feb. 26.