HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - USM Press Release
Southern Miss shortstop Nick Dawson had himself quite the Senior Day Saturday afternoon at Taylor Park.
Dawson hit a pair of doubles and a solo home run as the Golden Eagles rallied from a three-run deficit to overtake Louisiana Tech 7-3 before 3,753, the second-largest crowd of the season.
"I think it meant a little bit more," said Dawson, who collected his fifth, three-hit game of the year. "It's the last (regular-season) Saturday I'll play here and having my whole family here, I was excited to play in front of them."
The win meant a little more to the Golden Eagles collectively after they dropped Friday's opener of the three-game Conference USA series to Louisiana Tech.
No. 16 Southern Miss (35-15, 19-7 C-USA) evened the series with the Bulldogs (34-15, 16-10), setting up a 1 p.m. rubber match to decide the best-of-three set.
"Proud of our guys," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "Louisiana Tech is a very good ballclub that's playing very well, with seven straight wins coming into (Saturday's) contest, so they're playing with a lot of confidence.
"So, for our guys to come out and win and give us a chance to win the series, I'm very proud of that."
Sophomore left-hander Kirk McCarty (6-0) scattered seven hits over six innings, and senior right-hander Nick Johnson came out of the bullpen to squelch a seventh-inning jam, wrapping up the game with three scoreless innings of one-hit baseball for his second save.
"For Nick Johnson to come in there, with two guys on and no outs and get two strikeouts - and they're a team that doesn't strike out very much - for him to do that was huge," said McCarty, who walked one and struck out three. "It was awesome, a great feeling."
The Golden Eagles improved to 13-0 in games that McCarty has started this season, though initially, that prospect appeared a bit gloomy.
LA Tech managed just one hit to score three runs in the second inning off McCarty. The Bulldogs had three batters hit in the inning, and used a hit batter, a walk and a sacrifice fly to bring in the runs.
"It was not a fun inning, not an ideal inning," McCarty said. "Emotions ran high. It was intense. They wore some balls, off their elbow, off their foot. They did what they could to get on base, so, credit to them for not getting out of the way."
Third baseman Tracy Hadley helped McCarty out of the morass by snaring a screaming line drive down the line with runners at first and second.
"That could have very well been a seven-run inning, and we're in trouble then," McCarty said. "So, credit to Tracy. He got up, used his kangaroos, and caught that ball.
Southern Miss cut the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the inning when senior second baseman Chase Scott doubled to left, moved to third on a grounder to the right side and scored on a wild pitch by Tech starter Cameron Linck (3-1).
The Golden Eagles grabbed their first lead of the weekend in the third.
Hadley walked and scored on Dawson's double into the left-center field gap to make the score 3-2.
Dawson moved to third on a one-out grounder to the right side and tied the game on senior first baseman Tim Lynch's single to right.
Scott walked, ending Linck's day, bringing in Tech left-hander Mark Baughman to face Southern Miss left-handed left fielder Hunter Slater. After falling behind 0-2, Slater singled to center, bring home Lynch for a 4-3 lead.
Dawson extended the lead to 5-3 in the sixth, sending his second home run of the season over the left-field fence.
Southern Miss tacked on two more runs in the eighth. Dawson doubled, his team-high 16th of the season and scored on center fielder Dylan Burdeaux' single to center.
Burdeaux stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on center fielder Jake Sandlin's sacrifice fly to center.
Dawson finished his day with eight total bases and three runs scored.
Lynch, Burdeaux and Slater each had two of the Golden Eagles' 12 hits off five Tech pitchers. Marshall Boggs and Jordan Washam each had two hits for the Bulldogs.
Southern Miss is expected to start freshman right-handed pitcher Walker Powell (3-2, 3.67 earned run average) in the series finale, while junior right-hander Casey Sutton (6-0, 1.31 ERA) is expected to get the start for Tech.