Southern Miss (14-9, 1-3 Conference USA) lost three of four games as it began conference play last week with a series against nationally ranked Louisiana Tech (17-6, 3-1 Conference USA).
The Golden Eagles started the series with a 3-2 loss Friday that went down to the wire in the ninth inning.
Southern Miss came into the ninth needing at least one run to tie the game and got runners on second and third with one out. However, Louisiana Tech closed out the game as pitcher Landon Tomkins struck out the Golden Eagles’ last two batters.
“We thought we were in it the whole time,” sophomore Reece Ewing said. “I think everybody in the dugout thought that in the last inning that we were going to at least tie it up[,] and I thought we were going to take the game right there. It was a tough loss.”
Head Coach Scott Berry said that the team missed opportunities earlier in the game to win and didn’t get the runs they needed, but that he wasn’t disappointed in the team’s approach at-bat.
“As far as the approach, I wasn’t disappointed at all. I think there were times especially whenever we had a chance to get that run that maybe we didn’t tighten it up enough to get it done,” Berry said.
Both teams’ aces battled in the first game. Senior Hunter Stanley pitched for six innings and recorded seven strikeouts, only allowing three hits and no runs. Louisiana Tech’s Jonathan Fincher pitched for seven innings, posting a 1.69 ERA.
“He [Stanley] did not have his best stuff[,] but he went out there and pitched with it and I think that’s what’s important,” Berry said.
Southern Miss struck first with an RBI double in the fourth inning, but it was the only lead the team held for the game. After being held scoreless throughout Stanley’s first six innings, the Bulldogs put three runs on the board in the seventh inning to go up 3-1.
Ewing again delivered in the bottom of the eighth with a single RBI to narrow the score, but it wasn’t enough to secure the win.
“Both those hits that he [Ewing] had tonight were off of a left-hander. I thought he had a really good approach there. I think he’s been one of our more consistent hitters,” Berry said
Southern Miss responded to its loss in the first game with its highest-scoring game of the season for a 14-6 victory.
The Golden Eagles started with a two-run deficit, but launched their hitting soon after with seven unanswered runs as senior Walker Powell threw two scoreless innings.
“I had a long inning coming in, but I sat down and finally took a breath,” Powell said. “It was good to see the offense putting up some rocks. That’s definitely good and something you like to see as a pitcher.”
Powell pitched the team’s first complete game of the season through all seven innings. He recorded eight strikeouts, and only allowed 11 hits and six runs.
“Walker just gutted through there. That’s a tough lineup that Louisiana Tech throws at you […] but Walker was able to weather the storm and keep our bullpen fresh,” Berry said.
Southern Miss hit four home runs in the second game against LA Tech, the most the team has had in three years.
“We do feel a lot more confidence […] especially since we now know that we can put up that kind of offense,” junior Gabe Montenegro said.
Montenegro and sophomore Danny Lynch each hit two-run homers in the second inning to kickstart the Golden Eagles’ onslaught. Montenegro led the team with three hits, three RBIs and three runs in the game.
“He looked like the old Gabe Montenegro out there to me,” Berry said. “I was really proud of how he showed up and played. His swing really played, and it looked like that of old so hopefully, we can keep him going and get us going at the top.”
Montenegro said he made adjustments to his swing throughout the season to help his hitting.
“I’ve felt the same throughout the season, but it’s just little adjustments I’ve had to make and today, it just clicked finally,” Montenegro said.
Southern Miss exploded in the fourth inning with three runs. Sophomore Charlie Fischer hit a two-run homer, followed by a solo home run from Ewing to put the Golden Eagles up 7-2. The Bulldogs responded with three runs in the fifth inning, including a two-run homer of its own.
The Golden Eagles continued to hit successfully, however, and added five runs in the fifth inning. Sophomore Chris Sargent batted in three runs after hitting a double with the bases loaded. But Montenegro ultimately gave Southern Miss its final score of the game with an RBI double in the sixth inning.
The second game of the doubleheader was a different story from the first, as Louisiana Tech held Southern Miss scoreless in a 4-0 victory.
Southern Miss failed to carry its success hitting after one of its best outings of the season in the first game of the day.
“Since it’s going to be all season having these doubleheaders, we just need to stay locked in both games. We need to do a better job at that,” Montenegro said.
Louisiana Tech’s Cade Gibson pitched a complete game through seven innings, recording six strikeouts and allowing Southern Miss just three successful hits.
“Gibson pitched well and used both sides of the plate,” Berry said. “He pounded the zone, mixed it and we didn’t get very good swings on him.”
The Bulldogs jumped to a 2-0 advantage in the third inning after two consecutive hits, and added their final score with a two-run homer in the fifth. The Golden Eagles had a scoring opportunity in the sixth inning with two runners on base, but Gibson struck out three batters in the frame.
Freshman Ben Ethridge threw for four innings, recording eight strikeouts and allowing four hits and two runs. Four other pitchers threw in relief for Ethridge after his four innings.
Southern Miss dropped its final game against Louisiana Tech 8-7 after allowing seven consecutive runs during one stretch of the game.
“We didn’t do enough to beat a very good LA Tech team,” Berry said of the overall loss. “The shame of it is that we had a whole lot of opportunities. We just didn’t take care of business defensively […] and we didn’t get the stops that we’ve been getting from the bullpen all year long.”
The Golden Eagles jumped to an early 4-0 lead after RBI singles from Fischer and fellow sophomore Will McGillis in the first. Freshman Reed Trimble ran Montenegro in, and then scored on a fielding error.
However, Louisiana Tech staged a comeback and gained the lead after consecutive three-run innings in the sixth and seventh.
“I think the storyline was that LA Tech was able to get their leadoff hitter on in many innings,” Berry said. “They were able to start those innings with nobody out and I think that was the key in their scoring innings.”
Southern Miss responded to the Bulldogs’ runs to tie the game 7-7 in the bottom of the seventh.
“I was really proud of the way we came back after that three spot and put a three spot up ourselves,” Berry said.
After Ewing scored on a sacrifice fly and Lynch scored on a wild pitch, Trimble delivered a crucial RBI single to tie the game with two outs and two strikes in the count.
“I was just wanting to put the ball in play with two outs[. That’s] my job,” Trimble said. “I was trying everything I could.”
While Southern Miss was held scoreless in the previous game, the team surpassed its hit total from the third game in the first two innings, recording a total of 11 hits.
Montenegro continued to deliver for the Golden Eagles, extending his hitting streak to seven games. He started three for three, but struck out in his two last at-bats, including the game-ender in the bottom of the ninth.
Despite the Golden Eagles’ increased hitting, the team left 12 runners on base throughout the game.
“We had several opportunities to score, and we didn’t get the job done,” Trimble said. “That’s what it’s all about. […] That’s something we’ve really got to focus on getting better at as a team.”
Sophomore Drew Boyd pitched through five innings, allowing seven hits and three runs.
“I thought he [Boyd] did a great job covering those five innings for us,” Berry said.
Four other pitchers threw for Southern Miss after Boyd. Sophomore Garrett Ramsey ultimately earned the loss as he gave up the last run in the eighth inning.