Press release from Southern Miss Athletics
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Tuesday night simply may have represented the next game on Southern Mississippi‘s baseball schedule.
But a persuasive argument could be made the Golden Eagles’ 9-2 victory over Alabama before a season-high 3,577 at Pete Taylor Park saved their finest performance for one of their biggest games in the young season.
Senior right-hander Nick Johnson shut down the Crimson Tide for nearly seven innings and Southern Miss tied its season-high with 15 hits against a team that arrived in town boasting the second-best earned-run average in the nation.
“You can’t ask for more,” said catcher Chuckie Robinson, who drove in a career-high four runs on two singles and a sacrifice fly. “Our pitching did well. Our offense did well. Our defense did well. We just kind of worked off each other trusted each other to get the job done.”
Center fielder Jake Sandlin collected four singles against the Tide, his most in a Golden Eagle uniform. Freshman designated hitter Hunter Slater added a career-high three hits and right fielder Dylan Burdeaux homered against the Tide for a second consecutive season.
The Golden Eagles (14-4) beat Alabama (11-5) for a fourth consecutive time, and with a win over Auburn earlier this year, Southern Miss now has eight wins in a row over Southeastern Conference competition.
“I have no idea,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said of the Golden Eagles’ recent run. “Steady wins the race. We’re never too high, never too low, and if new can stay consistent off this win, we have a chance to win a lot of ballgames.
Alabama came into the game with a pitching staff boasting a collective 1.60 ERA. Instead, it was Johnson (1-0) who turned in the stoutest effort.
“He had command and control of that whole thing,” Berry said.
Johnson allowed two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He surrendered just one extra-base hit, a seventh-inning double, walked two while striking out five.
“He did a great job,” Robinson said. “He got his curveball over for strikes, his change-up for strikes and his fastball. When you’ve got three pitches for strikes in the zone, you’re going to be hard to hit.”
It was the second consecutive midweek outing that Johnson had allowed only two earned runs.
“Whoever’s in the dugout across the way, we’re going to play our game, play the same way,” Johnson said. “That’s what we did tonight.”
Southern Miss broke on top 2-0 in the fourth inning against Alabama starter Mike Oczypok (0-1).
Consecutive singles by Sandlin, first baseman Tim Lynch and left fielder Chase Scott produced the first run before Lynch scored on Robinson’s sacrifice fly.
Alabama nicked Johnson for a run in the fifth on shortstop Chandler Avant’s double, third baseman Daniel Cucjen’s single and a left fielder Keith Holcombe’s fielder’s choice groundout.
The Golden Eagles got the run back in the bottom of the inning. Slater led off with a single, moved to second on second baseman Storme Cooper’s bunt and scored on shortstop Nick Dawson’s single.
Southern Miss added three runs in the bottom in the sixth.
After Sandlin led off with a single, Alabama second baseman Cobie Vance could not come up with Lynch’s hit-and-run bouncer, leaving runners at first and second.
Scott doubled into the left-field corner, scoring Sandlin and ending Oczypok’s evening. Robinson greeted reliever Ray Castillo with a two-run single to left to give the Golden Eagles a 6-1 lead.
In the seventh inning, Johnson walked right fielder Chandler Taylor to open the inning, and center fielder Georgie Salem and catcher Will Hayne followed with singles to load the bases.
Avant’s sacrifice fly brought in Taylor, but Michael Gilbert _ who started at third base in place of an ill Taylor Braley _ got the second out on a stellar barehand-and-throw on Cucjen’s bunt that moved both Salem and Haynie up a base.
“That was a huge momentum killer,” Berry said. “It was a very tough play.”
Hunter Stevens then relived Johnson, and got pinch hitter Gene Wood to fly out to end the threat.
The Golden Eagles tacked on three more runs in the seventh. Burdeaux homered, sending his third shot of the season to deep left-center.
Sandlin singled and scored on Lynch’s RBI-double, and an out later, Lynch came home on Robisnon’s single.
Lynch had two hits and scored three times and Scott finished with two hits and two RBIs.