Southern Miss (21-9, 8-3 Conference USA) showed the full range of its firepower as it swept UAB to extend its winning streak to seven games.
When asked to comment on their first 7-2 victory against UAB, Head Coach Scott Berry said, “I thought we played a really clean, competitive baseball game.”
The Golden Eagles followed the command of Hunter Stanley’s eight-inning performance as he struck out eight batters, allowed seven hits, two runs and one walk.
Southern Miss continued its hitting successes in its first outing with UAB, as it posted 11 hits. Berry described how the team has improved on hitting as the season has progressed.
“You’re seeing guys put together some better at-bats now they’re not getting themselves out and not swinging at pitches out of the zone,” Berry said. “I think the approach of just being more patient and not getting yourself out has been the key of how those gentlemen started to turn their game around.”
Sophomore Danny Lynch continued to improve at-bat with two hits during the game, including a solo home run in the fifth inning. Lynch struggled a lot with hitting during the early season, and said that fellow teammate Charlie Fischer gave him great advice about being more relaxed at-bat, which eventually helped him improve.
“I realized early in the year I wasn’t relaxed,” Lynch said. “I was always trying to do too much or think about something and instead of just now when I get in the box, there’s really nothing going through my head. I’m just really relaxed and seeing the ball.”
Southern Miss struck first by scoring three runs in the third inning and taking advantage of defensive mistakes from UAB. Freshman Reed Trimble scored on a sacrifice fly from sophomore Christopher Sargent, while Lynch and fellow sophomore Reece Ewing delivered hits past the Blazers’ right-fielder to bat two more runs in.
Trimble struck again in the fourth inning with a two-run homer and Lynch delivered a home run in the sixth to give Southern Miss a 6-0 advantage.
Stanley allowed three consecutive hits from the mound, which gave UAB two runs in the sixth inning, but kept them scoreless for his final two innings.
“It was just a matter of keeping yourself composed and executing the pitch, but I give credit to them. I thought they battled two strikes and got some good swings off early in the count,” Stanley said.
Junior Gabe Montenegro earned his third hit of the game in the eighth and was sent home by a sacrifice fly from Fischer to put the Golden Eagles up 7-2. Pitcher Ryan Och closed out the game by striking out two more UAB batters.
Southern Miss took the second game 4-1 as senior pitcher Walker Powell minimized the Blazers’ opportunities to score throughout the game.
Powell earned his 25th career victory as he threw for a complete game, posting four strikeouts and allowing three hits and one run on 74 total pitches. Powell retired UAB’s first 11 batters in order, which quickly advanced the game.
Southern Miss continued to hit well, logging a near-double digit performance in the shortened seven-inning game. Berry said the work of Southern Miss’s hitting coaches helped the players improve their hitting a lot, and also congratulated the players for constantly working to improve themselves. He also noted that his players have started to use the whole field to find gaps in the defense, which has helped give them an edge.
Southern Miss jumped ahead once again in the second inning with two RBI singles from sophomore Will McGillis and redshirt freshman Andrew Stanley for a 2-0 lead.
After hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning, the Blazers threatened to tie the game in the sixth. UAB advanced to third, but Montenegro made a sliding catch to keep Southern Miss’s lead. UAB also seemed ready to retire Southern Miss’s batters in order, but the Golden Eagles added two insurance runs with two outs in the sixth to push further ahead.
Stanley hit a near home run that bounced off the back of the left-field wall for an RBI double before Dickerson added an RBI single to increase Southern Miss’s lead to the final of 4-1. Stanley finished with his second multi-hit game of the season and led the Golden Eagles with two RBIs.
Southern Miss won the series with a 9-2 victory, but immediately shifted its focus on earning the series sweep. When asked about the team’s strategy for the game to come, Ewing’s answer was direct: “Don’t exhale.”
While the Golden Eagles lost the second game of the last home doubleheader against Louisiana Tech, Ewing said the team has since refocused its energy, keeping the pressure on every time the team steps on the field.
This high-pressure approach showed as the Golden Eagles continued to assault the Blazers at-bat, notching 13 hits and two home runs.
A pair of home runs scored seven of the team’s nine runs. Ewing hit a three-run homer in the third inning to give Southern Miss an early 4-0 advantage.
“Early in the at-bat, I was chasing some pitches and rushing myself. Then I got two strikes and realized that he [UAB’s pitcher] didn’t have anything that I thought he could beat me with so I just slowed everything down and got a pitch I could hit,” Ewing said.
Lynch gave the team its second home run in the fifth inning. After the Golden Eagles hit three consecutive singles, Lynch hit the ball over the back wall for a grand slam.
“Danny was seeing it well[,] but the three guys ahead of him were able to load those bases for him to put the big swing on,” Berry said.
Freshman pitcher Ben Ethridge gave another solid performance on the mound, earning a win through his six-inning performance. Ethridge allowed five hits, one run and walked one batter on 75 total pitches. Ethridge described how, with the experience he has received as a second-year freshman, he has started to perfect the slider in his pitching arsenal.
“Last year I didn’t really have it [the slider], and this year it’s come into play a lot more effectively and it’s good at getting people out,” Ethridge said. “They [UAB] didn’t swing and miss. They were putting contact everywhere, but the slider normally gets past people and it’s effective even early in the counts. […] It’s become a great pitch to have.”
Southern Miss displayed impressive fielding in the game, too, including a pair of efforts from McGillis and Montenegro in the first inning.
“We played outstanding defense,” Berry said. “We made some really nice plays out there and not just the beginning of the plays, but [at] the end.”
Southern Miss was once again the first team to score as sophomore Blake Johnson hit an RBI single in the second inning. Johnson also earned the first multi-hit game of his career with three hits.
Ethridge ran into trouble in the sixth and allowed three consecutive hits, including a solo home run, but ultimately held steady. Freshman Slade Wilks earned the first RBI of his career with a double in the sixth inning, giving Southern Miss a 9-1 lead before UAB added its final run.
In the end, sophomore Aubrey Gillentine struck out UAB’s last batter to end the game.
Southern Miss finished the weekend strong as it won the last game 14-4, ending the game with the ten-run rule.
The Golden Eagles’ weekend-high of 14 hits lifted the team to its second consecutive series sweep. Berry noted the importance of the team’s ability to get on base for its win, as the team earned seven walks in the game.
“I saw a couple of guys that really chased pitches that they should have been two-zero in the count, but they were zero-two,” Berry said. “Those are the at-bats that we’re trying to improve on. […] We’ve been doing a really good job of that.”
The Golden Eagles ended the game early with five runs and four hits in the eighth inning after the team loaded the bases with no outs. Sargent led the team with two hits and four RBIs in the game, and earned its first score with a three-run homer.
UAB scored two consecutive runs in the third inning, but the Golden Eagles responded with two home runs, as Fischer notched a solo homer and Ewing hit a two-run shot.
Sophomore Drew Boyd ultimately earned the win in his fourth start this season. Boyd played the longest outing he had this season in the final game against UAB. Through six innings, he recorded five strikeouts while allowing six hits and three runs.
“I felt like I worked ahead in the count today and overall felt like I had a good outing,” Boyd said. “I felt like when they got some baserunners, I was maybe trying to get a little too cute with it, but overall I felt pretty good about the outing.”
Montenegro extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the fourth. Trimble then hit an RBI to increase the Golden Eagles’ lead to 7-3.
Lynch hit an RBI single to send Fischer home for a run in the seventh. However, Fischer cut his left hand on the UAB catcher’s cleats as he dove home, leaving the field with his hand wrapped in a towel. Berry said that Fischer was taken to Wesley Medical Center after the game.
“He’s a big part of our lineup,” Sargent said. “It’s a little frustrating because we’re getting going now hitting, but I think it’s going to be ok, and I think he’ll be back soon.”
Southern Miss did not slow down after the injury, though. Sargent earned his fourth RBI in the inning and then McGillis drove in two more runs. Freshman Cade Crosby finished out the game with his first career hit on an RBI single.
Southern Miss’s next series is against Louisiana Tech, who the Golden Eagles lost their first series to earlier this season. The team is fired up for the games ahead and hope to extend their winning streak some more.
“It’s one of the most crucial series of all,” Sargent said. “They took three from us and I think we need to go and take three from them. We should go out and compete and keep doing what we’re doing.”