HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - USM Press Release
Southern Miss has found a fairly tasty recipe for success on the diamond these days.
Take a Braley Bomb, mix in a mid-inning rally and let settle with a steady serving of solid pitching.
The result Sunday afternoon was an 8-5 victory that finished up a series sweep of Northwestern State before 2,908 at Pete Taylor Park.
"Our message was, 'You've worked hard to give yourselves an opportunity to sweep … and that's pretty special," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "I knew Northwestern State wasn't going to let down with their backs against the wall. They're very competitive, well-coached and gave us everything we wanted in all these games. They never laid down.
"But our ability to go out and get that sweep, our guys earned that."
Southern Miss (7-0) is off to the best start to a season since the 2009 World Series team and matches the third-best start in program history.
"We've just got to keep the train going," said starting left-hander Kirk McCarty, who picked up his first win of the season by allowing just two runs in 5 2/3 innings. "The run support is awesome."
The Golden Eagles scored no fewer than eight runs against the Demons, averaging 12.7 hits and 10.3 runs a game. With 11 hits Sunday, Southern Miss has collected at least 10 hits in six of its first seven games.
Third baseman Taylor Braley continued with his early-season offensive onslaught, skying his fifth home run in seven games, a solo shot into the trees over the left-field wall in the bottom of the fifth inning that broke a 2-2 tie.
Braley drove in another run in the sixth inning and finished with three hits, making him one of two Golden Eagles to hit safely in every game and bringing his batting average to .480.
"This is going pretty good, but I'm not trying to think about it too much, that way I can keep it going and not try to do too much," said Braley, who has a team-high 13 RBI. "But I don't know if I've ever been hitting this good. Not really."
And over the weekend, the bottom of the Golden Eagles lineup haunted the Demons.
Designated hitter Daniel Keating, second baseman Storme Cooper and shortstop Nick Dawson combined to hit .484 (15 of 31) with 11 runs scored and 14 RBIs.
Keating, who hit a key two-run homer Friday and turned in a three-hit game Saturday, went 2 of 3 Sunday with three runs scored.
Cooper went 1 of 3 with two RBIs and a run scored Sunday, giving the true freshman seven RBIs on the season.
Dawson raised his batting average to .400, tying career highs Sunday with three hits _ including two doubles _ and three RBIs.
"We're very confident right now," Dawson said, "and mostly from (senior first baseman) Tim Lynch, who is really into being confident about everything, and that's rubbed off on a lot of us."
Lynch extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single Sunday, while outfielder/leadoff Dylan Burdeaux also had a hit, RBI and run scored.
"Right now, it's a tough lineup to pitch to, it really is," Berry said. "We're hitting the ball well, and the guys at the bottom are really complementing the guys in the middle and up front. So, it's a tough lineup to pitch to, and especially to try and get through three times, not to mention four."
As it had Friday night, the game see-sawed early, with Northwestern State manufacturing a 1-0 lead in the second
Center fielder Nick Heath reached on a bunt single, stole second and went to third when catcher Chuckie Robinson's throw went high and into center field. Heath then tagged and scored on a pop-up down the left field line by shortstop Matthew Alford that Dawson caught against the bullpen wall
Southern Miss tied the game in the bottom of the inning, when Keating walked and later reached third during a botched rundown on a steal attempt. He scored on a grounder to the right side by Cooper.
The Demons went up 2-1 in the fourth when Heath walked, stole second and scored on Alford's single up the middle.
The Golden Eagles tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Robinson walked with one out, went to second on a wild pitch by Demons starter Chase Hymel (0-1) and scored on Cooper's two-out single to center.
Braley gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good with two outs in the fifth inning, crushed Hymel's first offering way far away.
"No question, he's seeing the ball well right now," Berry said.
The Golden Eagles seized control of the game in the sixth when a run-scoring double by Dawson and RBI singles by Burdeuax and Braley pushed Southern Miss ahead 6-2.
Second baseman Spencer Goodwin's first homer of the season, a solo shot off reliever Nick Johnson to lead off the seventh inning cut the deficit to 6-3, but Dawson's two-run double in the bottom of the inning pushed the lead back to 8-3.
A double by Heath and single by Alford brought the Demons within 8-5, but reliever Nick Sandlin got out of a one-out, first-and-third jam by striking out Goodwin and getting pinch-hitter Kelsey Richard to fly out to right field.
Left-hander Cody Livingston allowed a leadoff single in the ninth inning, but sandwiched a groundout between two strikeouts to pick up his second save of the series.
Southern Miss will play at South Alabama at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, with the teams meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at MGM Park in Biloxi.