HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - USM PRESS RELEASE
Southern Miss emphasized getting off to a fast start in the 2016 baseball season.
So far, so good.
The Golden Eagles banged out 11 hits Wednesday night, the third time in four games to top the 10-hit mark, and got another sterling effort out of the bullpen in a 7-4 victory over the University of New Orleans at Taylor Park.
"Every win is big, as we all know," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "At the end of the season, all those games (are) added up, so our approach this year is take it one game at a time and that's what we're doing."
Berry said he was not pleased with the way his team played in the early going, but liked his team's determination as the Golden Eagles (4-0) handed the Privateers (3-1) their first loss.
"It was not our best game," Berry said. "Probably the worst game that we've played this year in a young, four-game season. We've got to get a lot better. We got the 'W' (Wednesday), and that's all that matters, but we've got to play better."
For the second consecutive game, Southern Miss rallied past an opponent, with a number of clutch moments, including:
*Left fielder Chase Scott's first home run of the season, a two-run shot over the scoreboard in left-center field that tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning after UNO had taken a 3-1 lead in the top of the frame
*Catcher Chuckie Robinson's two-out, hot-shot single to left that put Southern Miss ahead for good in the fifth
*Another "answer," when after UNO closed to a run in the seventh, the Golden Eagles scored twice in the bottom of the inning to keep the Privateers at bay
"All you've done, to this point, is you've shown that you can win tough baseball games and you can blow people out," said center fielder Jake Sandlin, who had a hit and run scored Wednesday. "But these are the games you have to win.
"The blowouts, they don't come too often, so you're going to need win close ballgames, like (Wednesday). Dreary night, tough night to come out real focused, so if you don't start hot, you just have to grind at-bats, play good defense and just keep working and let things happen for themselves."
Southern Miss took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off UNO left-hander Bryan Warzek on a single to center field by first baseman Tim Lynch, but the Privateers tied the game in the third on a single up the middle by second baseman Samuel Capielano.
UNO knocked Golden Eagles starter Hunter Stevens out of the game and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning on sacrifice flies by center fielder Chaz Boyer and right fielder Jay Robinson.
But after third baseman Taylor Braley walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth, Scott crushed a 0-2 pitch to tie the game. It was Southern Miss' 10th home run of the season.
"I knew I just needed to shorten up (his swing) and put something in play right there," Scott said. "I put a good swing on it and it left the yard."
Southern Miss regained the lead, 5-3 lead, off UNO right-hander Keaton Brewer (0-1) on the single by Robinson and a bases-loaded walk by second baseman Storme Cooper in his first career start.
UNO pulled to within 5-4 in the seventh off right-hander Nick Johnson, scoring an unearned run with two outs when Braley and shortstop Nick Dawson collided trying to chase down a bouncer by UNO shortstop Aaron Palmer.
It marked the first run surrendered by the Southern Miss bullpen in the season's first 14 innings, but Johnson avoided further damage by striking out catcher Kyle Bracey with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Southern Miss boosted its lead to 7-4 with two runs in the bottom of the inning on Cooper's sacrifice fly and Dawson's run-scoring single.
Red-shirt freshman Austin Millett (1-0) picked up his first career win, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out three in 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief.
True freshman Nick Sandlin earned his first career save, allowing an infield single while striking out two in two innings of scoreless relief.
Southern Miss' bullpen has not allowed an earned run in 16 innings this season.
"Very proud of Millett, what he's done in his two outings," Berry said. "Nick Johnson, he got himself in trouble with the hit batter. He got the first two outs and then it kind of snowballed on him.
"The young freshman, Sandlin, boy, I feel good when he gets the ball. He's like (former standout closer) Daniel Best. He's very similar to what Best was. Very athletic, great mound presence. I think his teammates, when he's on the mound, they know they really have a chance to win."
Lynch, who drove in a run and scored once, led Southern Miss' attack with a double and two singles.
Braley, who scored twice, had a double and single, while Dawson had two singles and drove in a run.
Third baseman Dakota Dean had two of UNO's eight hits.