Press release from Southern Miss Athletics
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The chant began low but quickly built in the eighth inning at Pete Taylor Park Friday night: “Chuckie! Chuckie! Chuckie!”
Call it a curtain call of sorts, as Southern Miss junior catcher Chuckie Robinson had delivered yet again.
Robinson drove in a career-high seven runs with a career-best five hits and the Southern Miss bullpen came up big when its Friday starter went down two batters into the game as the Golden Eagles took a 12-5 Conference USA victory over WKU.
With the win, the 18th-ranked Golden Eagles (32-14, 16-6 C-USA) remained tied atop the C-USA standings with No. 14 Rice, which defeated FIU 2-0 Friday.
The Hilltoppers (24-22, 10-12) lost for the fourth time in five games.
“Any time you can come out on a Friday to open a series and get a win, certainly you’re one-third of the way to your goal,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said.
Robinson came within a RBI of the school record shared by former third base standouts Fred Cooley and Tommy Davis, and became the first Golden Eagle to collect seven since former shortstop and current volunteer coach B.A. Vollmuth turned the trick at Rice on May 16, 2010.
With his 5-for-5 effort Friday, Robinson has collected a hit in each of his last 10 at-bats. In his last 11 plate appearances, Robinson has 10 hits and a sacrifice fly with 11 RBIs in that stretch.
When he stepped to the plate in the eighth, the bulk of the 2,918 attending the opener of the three-game weekend series with the Hilltoppers expressed their appreciation, and Robinson promptly drilled his second, two-run single of the game to left field.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve never heard The Pete yell somebody’s name like that,” said senior right-hander Jake Winston, who came into the game with one out in the first inning when starter Cord Cockrell was lifted with a shoulder issue. “It was actually pretty cool. Chuckie had a great night offensively, but he also caught a great game. Not only was it because he hit so well (Friday), but he had one of his best defensive games, too.”
Robinson, who swatted his fourth homer of the year to go along with four singles, led a Golden Eagle hitting barrage that collected a season-high 18 hits off six WKU pitchers.
“I saw the ball well, but as a team, we hit the ball well, too,” said Robinson, who was 2-for-2 with a RBI in his last two at-bats Saturday at Florida Atlantic before going 3-for-3 with three RBIs Sunday against the Owls. “The past two weekends, we hadn’t really hit the ball that well as a team, so I think this is a big boost for us, and hopefully, that will leave some momentum on our side.”
Cockrell, who had lasted just 3 2/3 innings against FAU last weekend, only faced two batters Friday before being visited on the mound by certified athletic trainer Mark Waller, pitching coach Michael Federico and Berry.
Winston (6-0) was summoned and promptly got out of the inning with a one-pitch double-play ball.
Center fielder Jake Sandlin put the Golden Eagles on the board 1-0 in the first by sending his fourth home run of the season well over the wall in right field.
Southern Miss took a 5-0 lead in the third off WKU left-hander Austin King (3-4) on left fielder Hunter Slater’s run-scoring single through the right side and Robinson’s two-out, three-run home run to center field.
The Hilltoppers broke through in the top of the fifth against Winston on a run-scoring double by catcher Hunter Wood and RBI-grounder by center fielder Zach Janes.
But Southern Miss made it 8-2 in the bottom of the inning, stringing together five, consecutive singles with two outs against King and right-handed reliever Sam Higgs, including Robinson’s two-run single and shortstop Nick Dawson’s RBI-hit to left.
Then, WKU knocked out Winston with three runs in the sixth. Winston would allow five runs (four earned) on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Designated hitter Kaleb Duckworth singled, and one out later, second baseman Steven Kraft reached when Dawson’s throw pulled Southern Miss first baseman Tim Lynch off the bag.
WKU first baseman Hunter Scanlon followed with his first home run of the season, a moon shot over the right field fence to get the Hilltoppers within 8-5.
After Winston gave up a double to right fielder Paul Murray, left-hander Luke Lowery relieved. Lowery got a grounder for the second out, before giving up a single shortstop Steven DiPuglia and a walk to Janes to load the bases.
But Lowery got out of the jam by getting left fielder Leiff Clarkson to fly out to right.
Southern Miss iced the game in the eighth inning with four runs on Robinson’s two-run single, Lynch’s single and Chase Scott’s double.
Mason Walley, who allowed just two hits in three scoreless innings, picked up his first save of the season.
Sandlin, Dawson, Scott and Slater each had two hits for the Golden Eagles, while Scanlon, Murray and DiPuglia each had two hits in WKU’s 10-hit attack.
The teams will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday. Sophomore left-hander Kirk McCarty (4-0, 3.12 earned run average) is expected to move up a day in Southern Miss’ weekend pitching rotation and face WKU senior right-hander Josh Bartley (4-3, 5.06 ERA).