HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The same issues that started last weekend at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville have followed the University of Southern Mississippi back home to Hattiesburg.
An offense crippled by a lack of hits or dearth of hits at the right time have hampered the 23rd-ranked Golden Eagles since they opened an eight-game homestand with a 2-1 loss to the University of New Orleans Tuesday.
USM followed that up with a pair of losses Saturday, as Gonzaga University swept a doubleheader from the Golden Eagles at Pete Taylor Park.
In a 4-2 afternoon loss, the Golden Eagles managed just two hits through six innings and finished with just five for the game.
It marked the fifth consecutive game that USM managed less than 10 hits and the fourth time in five games that it had scored two runs or less.
The Golden Eagles (4-5) solved both of those issues in the evening’s second game, but USM stranded 13 baserunners in a catch-up-only-to-fall-short 10-8 loss in 10 innings.
“It’s frustrating, most definitely,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “I know we have good players. It’s just right now we are lacking the confidence that it takes to win at the Division I level in these kind of games against these kind of teams.”
The doubleheader sweep extended the Golden Eagles’ losing streak to five games, the longest since the 2013 season.
Gonzaga (4-6) had won just two of its first eight games, but had played a schedule that included Oregon State University, Minnesota and California State-Northridge.
The Bulldogs ranked USM pitching for 22 hits in the two games, 11 hits in each, and managed to add nine walks, four hit-by-pitches and three USM errors as well into the day’s offensive mix.
USM came up with 13 hits and eight walks in the second game, but as in the first, never managed to take the lead.
Gonzaga right-hander Casey Legumina (1-0) allowed two runs on three hits over seven innings, striking out seven while walking two
The Golden Eagles scored their only runs on a two-run home run by Matt Wallner in the sixth inning, and by then, Gonzaga had built a 3-0 lead against the first five of the seven pitchers USM used in the opener.
Starter Stevie Powers (0-2) faced two batters, walked one and took the loss, removed from the game after experiencing back spasms.
“The first pitch, he felt something in his lat (lattissimus dorsi) and it just kept kind of contracting back there and effecting his pitching,” Berry said. “So, we had to go to the (bullpen) early, and weren’t ready for that one.”
In the first inning, Gonzaga got an RBI-single from cleanup hitter Ryan Sullivan and a sacrifice fly from right fielder Troy Johnston for a 2-0 lead.
The Bulldogs added a third run in the sixth inning on a nifty, hit-and-run play that left runners on first and third base. Second baseman Carson Breshears then dropped down a nicely-placed bunt that scored left fielder Isaac Barrera for a 3-0 lead.
Wallner’s second home run of the season, a blast over the corner of the big black wall in center, got Southern Miss back within a run.
But the Golden Eagles could get no closer and the Bulldogs added a run in the eighth inning on a single by third baseman Ernie Yake that scored designated hitter Mason Marenco.
Legumina (1-0) struck out seven while walking two. The Golden Eagles struck out 11 times in Saturday’s first game, giving Southern Miss 56 strikeouts in the past five games.
Alex Jacob went the final two innings, allowing two hits, walking two and striking out four. Southern Miss had two base runners on in each of the eighth and ninth innings with an out or less and could not get a run as Jacob picked up his first save.
“We came out with the intensity to win, but we ended up with the same result,” Berry said. “We missed opportunities, and for us to be a good ballclub, we’ve got to step up.”
Southern Miss center fielder Fred Franklin had two singles.
For Gonzaga, Marenco went 4-for-4 with a run and RBI. Catcher Austin Pinorini, center fielder Guthrie Morrison and Sullivan had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs.
For a third consecutive game, Southern Miss’ starting pitcher did not see the third inning.
Mason Srickland got the starting nod in favore of Walker Powell, who came up Monday with some tenderness in his bicep, Berry said.
“That’w why we bumped him back,” Berry said.
After working a scoreless first, Strickland allowed four consecutive hits _ a pair singles sandwiching a pair of doubles _ as the Bulldogs took a 3-0 lead.
Left-hander Adam Jackson came in and held the fort, pitching 4 2/3 innings and allowing USM a chance to get back in the game.
The Golden Eagles cut its deficit to 3-1 in the second inning on a run-scoring single by Danny Lynch and then made it 3-2 in the third on Hunter Slater’s RBI-single.
Slater homered to lead off the fifth inning and his second home run of the year tied the game 3-3. But USM stranded Fred Franklin at third base to miss a chance to go ahead.
Gonzaga the started a pattern that played out over the next few innings, taking a lead in the top of the inning , only to see USM rally to tie in the bottom of the inning.
Sullivan hit his fifth home run of the year in sixth inning and USM second baseman Matthew Guidry threw away a ball at first base to allow a second run to score as the Bulldogs took a 5-3 lead.
But USM answered on Wallner’s run-scoring fielder’s choice and Slater’s sacrifice fly to tie the game 5-5.
An RBI-single by Gonzaga’s Pinorni made it 6-5 in the top of the seventh, but USM tied it 6-6 in the bottom of the inning on Cole Donladson’s double.
Neither team scored in the eighth or ninth innings, though Gonzaga had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth inning ruined by a double play and USM had a runner reach second base in the bottom of the inning before the chance passed.
In the 10th inning, Gonzaga took advantage of three walks, two hits and a hit-by-pitch to put up four runs for a 10-6 lead.
USM got two back in the bottom of the inning on a run-scoring single by Wallner and RBI-double by Erick Hoard but could not prevent its third consecutive home loss.
Billy Dimlow (1-1), the fifth of six Gonzaga pitchers, got the win, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit in 1 2/3 innings. He walked one, struck out one. Jacob, who allowed a hit in 2/3 of an inning, picked up his second save in about a five-hour stretch.
Reliever Ryan Och (0-1), the fourth of USM’s five pitchers, took the loss. He allowed four runs on a hit in 1 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out one.
Hoard led USM at the plate, with three hits and a walk. He scored a run and drove in another.
Slater finished with two hits and three RBIs. Leadoff hitter Gabe Montenegro doubled, walked three times and scored three runs. Lynch had two hits for his first multi-hit game as a Golden Eagle and Wallner drove in two runs/.
Gonzaga got four hits from Guthrie Morrison , who hits doubles and two singles and scored three runs.
Weather permitting, the teams are scheduled to wrap up the three-game series at 10 a.m. Sunday. The game was originally scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch.