Clutch hitting pushes USM past FIU, 5-1

Clutch hitting pushes USM past FIU, 5-1

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Friday night, the University of Southern Mississippi mashed 16 hits to bludgeon its way past visiting Florida International University at Taylor Park.

Saturday afternoon, the 17th-ranked Golden Eagles relied more on some clutch hitting.

Taylor Braley's two-out single put USM ahead for good, and Dylan Burdeaux and Matt Wallner each had a two-out, run-scoring single in back-to-back innings as the Golden Eagles pulled away from the Panthers for a 5-1 Conference USA victory.

"We've been pretty clutch with that all year," USM coach Scott Berry said. "We take a lot of pride in that. To me, that's competing. That's not giving in and that's not giving up.

"It's a different game every time you come out to play and you have to find other ways to win than just outslugging people and scoring runs."

With the win, Southern Miss (26-6, 10-1 C-USA) clinched its fourth consecutive series to open conference play while improving to 17-2 at home.

FIU (17-14, 5-6) lost its third consecutive game.

The Golden Eagles opened the scoring in the first inning, when Burdeaux doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch by FIU starter Tyler Myrick (3-2).

The lead held until the fifth inning. The Panthers strung together a couple hits and two walks to even the score against Southern Miss starter Hayden Roberts, with Kobe Lopez singling and eventually coming around to score on a wild pitch.

But the Golden Eagles immediately answered. Storme Cooper singled, took second on an infield chopper and moved to third on a fly to right field.

After Mason Irby was hit by a pitch and Hunter Slater walked to load the bases, Braley smoked a grounder into left field to give USM a 3-1 lead.

"Coach Berry talks about that all the time," Braley said. "I think we had scored eight runs in a game the other day and seven of them were with two outs.

"We really don't need to be leaving it up to that, but we've been getting it done with two outs."

In the seventh, Wallner bounced a two-out single into right side to score Slater for a 4-1 lead, and Burdeaux's two-out double in the eighth inning scored Cooper with the game's final run.

Colt Smith (1-0), who relieved Roberts with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth inning, picked up his first win as a Golden Eagle.

Smith gave up two hits while striking out three in three scoreless innings.

Nick Sandlin picked up his fourth save of the season by logging the final four outs of the game.

Burdeaux and Cooper combined for four of USM's seven hits Saturday. Burdeaux hit two doubles while Cooper had a single and double and scored twice.

Javier Valdes led FIU with a double and single.

USM will try for its third conference sweep when the teams meet at noon Sunday.