Southern Miss (4-3) ultimately won its series against the University of Connecticut (UConn, 2-4) by taking the first two games, but the Huskies avoided a sweep by closing out the weekend with a victory.
Down by one run in the eighth, Gabe Montenegro delivered a two RBI double, leading the Golden Eagles to a 6-5 victory.
“I knew he had a pretty good slider, so I was trying to look for something and see if he threw that slider away. I was never going to reach for it,” Montenegro said about his last at-bat. “That pitch was exactly it. […] It was a slider, and that’s exactly what I was looking for, so I was able to hit it.”
Montenegro’s two hits accounted for four of the team’s runs. He also hit a solo home run on the first at-bat for Southern Miss, keeping Southern Miss in the lead for most of the game.
“His first at-bat and last at-bat obviously were special,” Head Coach Scott Berry said. “I knew he’d been there before many times [… but] what a great at-bat, with two strikes and getting set double down the line to put us up one.”
While Montenegro earned the lead, pitcher Garrett Ramsey made his Southern Miss debut on the mound in the ninth to close out the game. Ramsey retired the Huskies quickly, immediately throwing three strikeouts.
“I came out there, just trying to do what I do best, land those sliders, and honestly, I kind of blacked out there at the end,” Ramsey said. “As soon as they swung that bat, I knew it was over.”
Berry says that Ramsey is their go-to guy to close out games, and did exactly what he showed off in practices.
“I loved his composure,” Berry said. “It was his first time out there in a Division 1 game, big crowd, everybody was amped up, and he was able to slow the game down, block out everything and do his thing.”
After falling to a 3-1 deficit, Reed Trimble hit an RBI double. Christopher Sargent followed with two RBI doubles, giving Southern Miss a 4-3 lead.
Though the Huskies regained the lead in the seventh, Montenegro and Ramsey eventually took them out. Along the way, Ryan Och replaced Hunter Stanley on the mound, and Stanley ended the game with 6.2 IP, including nine strikeouts, nine hits and five runs.
Ramsey emerged as the hero yet again as he closed out the second game to secure a 7-6 victory.
“We had been preparing for it going back-to-back days in the fall and all throughout early spring, so I was ready for it,” Ramsey said about closing out two straight games. “My arm was ready, and I told Coach to let me have the ball, and I went out there and did it again.”
Ramsey replaced Tyler Lantz in the eighth inning after UConn scored three runs. He recorded three strikeouts and 16 strikes on 23 total pitches.
Sargent shone as the Golden Eagles’ top hitter, earning two home runs for a total of five RBIs.
“I couldn’t be more proud of that young man,” Berry said. “He’s a really good hitter. He hasn’t got off to the start that he wants, or we want, but now he’s starting to heat up a bit.”
The Huskies scored in the first inning and jumped to a 3-0 lead after four straight hits in the third inning. But Dustin Dickerson gave the Golden Eagles its first hit of the day with a double, and Sargent tied the game with a three RBI home run. Said RBI was also Sargent’s first career home run.
“In the fall, I hit a pretty good bit. I guess I was pressing real early this year but to finally hit my first one [home run], it was really nice. It felt really good,” Sargent said.
“The three-run homer was really big there,” Berry said. “We needed that momentum. It was a time when UConn had gone up and scored twice in three innings, and we needed that big blast to get us back in the game. I think it really charged us and gave us some energy to move forward.”
Southern Miss scored two runs in the fourth inning. Michael Wein hit an RBI double and then scored after a sacrifice fly. After Charlie Fischer hit a double, Sargent hit again with a two-run homer to give Southern Miss a 7-3 lead.
The Huskies scored two more runs, but Ramsey prevented further damage to give Southern Miss the win.
Southern Miss looked to complete the series sweep, but the Huskies won 10-7, as its early lead was too much for the Golden Eagles to overcome.
“Well, I was disappointed like I know they were that we had a chance to beat a really sound club three times, but I was still proud of them winning this series being a young club and really grinding out, especially Friday night coming from behind[,] and then [Game Two] being able to come from behind as well and hold off and win it,” Berry said.
Southern Miss started off the game with its largest deficit of the series, as the Huskies stretched its lead up to 7-0 before Southern Miss got on the scoreboard with Dickerson’s solo homer.
“I had put a good swing on it, and I knew once it got into the wind, it was going to go,” Dickerson said. “Once I got back in the dugout, everybody was just saying we’re not out of this- a bloop and a blast, and we’re right back in it.”
After recording one more hit throughout four innings, Southern Miss rallied with four runs and three hits in the sixth.
“We just couldn’t get off the blocks like we wanted to,” Berry said. “I think a lot of that had to do with their guy, [Austin] Peterson. He was mixing it in and jamming our lefties and had a good changeup that made that fastball inside a little bit better.”
Golden Eagle Charlie Fischer hit a solo homer, and Reece Ewing hit a two-run homer in the inning. Billy Garrity then ran home after a sacrifice fly to narrow the score 7-5.
“We had some big hits today […] but there were other opportunities there that we missed on and over the weekend that we’ve got to do a better job of getting those runs in,” Berry said.
UConn spoiled the comeback with three runs in the seventh and jumped to a 10-5 lead after a throwing error.
Southern Miss managed to score two more runs in the eighth after a throwing error, but were held hitless for the rest of the game.
Walker Powell also earned the loss in his season debut. Powell finished the game with five strikeouts, six runs and six hits allowed in 5 IP.
Southern Miss will try to make up for the loss soon, as they play one game against Mississippi State on March 2 and a series against Jacksonville State on March 5.