Press release from Southern Miss Athletics
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi has been pretty darn good when it comes to the opening game of weekend baseball series.
In fact, the Golden Eagles have downright perfect.
Right-hander Cord Cockrell went six strong innings as Southern Miss took a 6-4 Conference USA victory before 2,826 Friday at Pete Taylor Park.
Southern Miss (23-8, 9-1 C-USA) picked up its 19th win in its last 20 conference games as the Golden Eagles improved to 8-0 in weekend series openers.
With Florida Atlantic’s loss to Charlotte Friday night, Southern Miss stands alone atop the conference standings, a game ahead of both No. 12 FAU and No. 25 Rice.
“You always want to get off to a good start, but it’s easy when the hitters are going to come out and do their thing,” said Cockrell, who allowed two runs on six hits. “It makes us a little bit easier on us.”
Shortstop Nick Dawson, designated hitter Daniel Keating, left fielder Hunter and right fielder Dylan Burdeaux each had two of the Golden Eagles’ 11 hits as Southern Miss picked up a win against the reigning C-USA Pitcher of the Week for a second consecutive home series.
Two weeks ago, the Golden Eagles had beaten UTSA starter Aaron Burns, who had been named C-USA POW after he led the Roadrunners to a win over Rice.
Friday, Middle Tennessee ace Nate Hoffman (1-4) was coming off a complete-game victory last weekend, when he shut down Rice on three singles in a 3-0 win by the Blue Raiders.
Hoffman struck out a personal-best seven Friday, but was touched for five runs (four earned) on nine hits over seven innings.
“We didn’t get to him until we got a little deeper in the game,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “He had a really good change-up, probably one of the best change-ups that I’ve seen in quite a while. We had a lot of swings and misses.
“But our guys were able to adjust …Today, it was the third time through the order.”
Southern Miss took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning off Hoffman when third baseman Tracy Hadley singled and scored on a double off the center field wall by designated hitter Daniel Keating.
MT (14-16, 2-8) tied it in the third off Cockrell (6-0) when second baseman Kevin Sullivan scored on the back end of a delayed double steal.
The Golden Eagles grabbed a 2-1 in the fourth when Keating’s two-out, bloop double into shallow center scored left fielder Hunter Slater from first base.
Southern Miss tacked on three runs in the fifth on right fielder Dylan Burdeaux’s double, center fielder Jake Sandlin’s single and two throwing errors by the Blue Raiders.
MT got a run in the sixth on a triple down the right-field line by right fielder Austin Dennis and a run-scoring grounder by center fielder Brad Jarreau.
Southern Miss tacked on another run in the eighth inning on second baseman Storme Cooper’s RBI-single, but the Blue Raiders made things interesting in the ninth.
First baseman Kevin Dupree led off the inning with his second home run of the season off reliever Jake Winston to make the score 6-3, and MTSU loaded the bases with two outs on a hit batsman, a walk and a chopped infield single.
Nick Sandlin relieved Winston, and allowed another run on another infield single. But he logged his fourth save of the season by getting a game-ending ground out.
Dupree finished with three of MTSU’s 10 hits, while Dennis, Sullivan and shortstop Riley Delgado each had two hits apiece.
Jarreau, a preseason All-C-USA selection, had an eight-game hitting streak snapped, as well as a 16-game streak where he had reached base at least once.
The teams play the second of three games at 1 p.m. Saturday. Senior right-hander Nick Johnson (2-0, 2.48 earned run average) is expected to get the starting nod for the Golden Eagles, while the Blue Raiders are expected to start senior left-hander Tyler Troutt (1-5, 3.66 ERA).