Southern Miss Edges USA 8-7 Saturday Afternoon to Force Bracket Final Game

Southern Miss Athletics

HATTIESBURG, Miss.  - When in doubt, Southern Miss tends to turn to Bradley Roney.

The junior closer, who went three innings to close out a win-or-go-home victory Thursday, went 3.2 innings Saturday afternoon, stifling UTSA long enough for the Golden Eagles to pull out an 8-7 win in the ninth inning in the 2014 Conference USA Baseball Tournament.

Roney also wound up scoring the game-winning run as a pinch runner in the ninth inning on center fielder Connor Barron's fielder's choice grounder with the bases loaded.

"Real proud of our team and the way we came out and competed," USM coach Scott Berry said.

Third-seeded USM (35-24) overcame three errors and seven walks by three pitchers not named Roney to force a second game with the seventh-seeded Roadrunners (34-25). The winner would play in Sunday's 1 p.m. championship game with an NCAA Regional berth on the line.

For USM, which had to beat UTSA or see its season end, Saturday afternoon was a see-saw ride.

UTSA starter Cody Brannon got the first two outs in the first inning, then fell apart.

He gave up a single to right fielder Mason Robbins, walked designated hitter Matt Durst and gave up a run-scoring single to first baseman Dylan Burdeaux.

Brannon hit third baseman Michael Gilbert to load the bases, then walked catcher Austin Roussel to make it 2-0 and end his afternoon.

But USM's Cody Carroll, who dodged trouble through the first two innings, couldn't get out of third.

Nine-hole hitter C.J. Pickering singled to the hole with one out, and right fielder John Welborn hit a big chopper that Gilbert threw into right field trying to get Pickering at second.

After striking out shortstop Horacio Correa, first baseman Mike Warren to load the bases, and third baseman R.J. Perucki dropped a two-run single into left field in front of a diving Breck Kline.

Catcher John Bormann hit a run-scoring single to center to give UTSA a 3-2 and finish Carroll. Nick Johnson came in, threw 16 pitches, walking three batters and forcing in two runs for a 5-2 UTSA lead.

All five runs were unearned.

But USM batted around in the top of the fourth inning to score five runs as well.

Second baseman Nick Dawson hit an RBI-single and shortstop Michael Sterling's fielder's choice got USM within 5-4 before Robbins drove a double into the left-center field gap to put the Golden Eagles back on top.

Gilbert's sacrifice fly made it 7-5.

"After giving up the five-spot when we had the lead, and then come back with another spot (ourselves), that says a lot about our kids," Berry said.

But UTSA tacked on an unearned run in the fifth, with center fielder Jesse Baker scoring on left fielder Logan Kinder's single that Barron bobbled and then threw wildly into the infield.

The Roadrunners tied it in the sixth, loading the bases with one out on a walk, single and intentional walk.

Enter Roney (2-0).

Bormann tied the game with a sacrifice fly, but Roney got out of the jam with a tapper back to the mound.

UTSA would manage just one baserunner in the final three innings, as Roney allowed just one hit while striking out four.

UTSA relievers Matt Sims and Jeremy Filipek checked the Golden Eagles through four scoreless innings until the ninth.

Durst coaxed a leadoff walk from Filipek (2-1) and moved to second on Burdeaux' bunt. After walking Gilbert, Flipek gave way to Boone Mokry.

Roussel poked a seeing-eye single through the hole at shortstop to load the bases, and on 2-2 count, Barron cracked a hard grounder that Warren speared to save from right field and got a force out at second base.

But Roney scored on the play, and in the ninth he sandwiched a strikeout around two flyballs.

Dawson had three of USM's 10 hits, as the bottom of the Golden Eagles' order went 6 of 14 against UTSA. Welborn had two of UTSA;s eight hits.

"All year long, it has been different guys," Berry said. "For us to do that and get that kind of production from the bottom of the order, that was huge."