HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi's magic act continued at Pete Taylor Park Sunday afternoon, with Dylan Burdeaux providing the final flourish before the Golden Eagles exited the stage with yet another walk-off victory.
Burdeaux' two-run single to left field capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the 11th inning as the 20th-ranked Golden Eagles pulled off a second consecutive hard-to-believe stunner, topping Florida Atlantic University 5-4 before 3,487 people.
"That was wild," said Taylor Braley, who became the first Golden Eagle pitcher to throw nine innings this season.
The Golden Eagles rallied back a second consecutive game after the Owls had scored four runs to take the lead. Saturday, all four FAU runs came in the eighth inning; Sunday the Owls scored twice in the ninth inning to tie the game and then tacked on two more in the top of the 11th for a 4-2 lead.
Both days, the Golden Eagles scored multiple runs against one of Conference USA’s top closers, Cameron Ragsdale, handing him his first two losses of the season. Saturday, USM scored twice in the bottom of the ninth; Sunday it was three runs.
Both days, the Golden Eagles were down to their last at-bats when they scored the game-winning runs, with both walk-offs coming with two outs.
"I'm just so proud of our guys," USM coach Scott Berry said, "for never having the attitude that they were not going to win that game.
"We did so many things well to win that baseball game, but more than anything else, the biggest thing was that we had the attitude that we were going to win."
With the win, USM (37-12, 19-5 C-USA) swept the Owls (29-16-1, 15-9) in a best-of-three series that had pitted the top two teams in the conference against one another.
The Golden Eagles, who came into the weekend with a one-game lead at the top of the conference standings, have won seven in a row and swept their past two C-USA weekends.
With six conference games left in the regular season, USM leads second-place Old Dominion by three games, FAU by four and University of Charlotte by five.
"We wanted all three because it can come back and bite you later in the season," Braley said. "It's like we talk about, and Coach Berry does if we've won the first two games (of a series): 'We've had a good weekend; let's have a great weekend.'
"So, that's what we try to do every time."
This time, it took the Golden Eagles' fifth and sixth walk-offs of the season to do so, and Sunday's victory might have been the more audacious considering USM's head-shaker less than 24 hours earlier.
Sunday, the Golden Eagles took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning after scoring on LeeMarcus Boyd's single in the fourth inning and Matt Wallner's 15th homer of the season leading off the eighth inning.
Braley had a two-hit shutout going into the ninth inning before Jared Shouppe's hit his fifth home run of the season with one out and David Miranda swatted his 11th of the year with two outs to tie the game.
The Owls took a 4-2 lead in the top of the 11th inning off of Stevie Powers and Nick Sandlin on Stephen Kerr's sacrifice fly and Jordan Poore's double. But with runners at second base and third base and two outs, Sandlin (8-1) got Pedro Pages to ground out to end the inning.
Ragsdale (2-2) started the bottom of the 11th by striking out pinch-hitter Matthew Guidry before walking Cole Donaldson. Ragsdale struck out pinch-hitter Jake Viaene before walking the inning's third pinch-hitter, Hunter Slater, to put runners on first and second with two outs.
Boyd, who had game-winning, walk-offs in two previous Golden Eagle victories this season, got behind 0-2 in the count before stepping out of the box to take a deep breath.
"I didn't want to get out of my zone," Boyd said. "I had to step out, get back my composure, then step back in and look for a pitch that I could drive in the outfield."
Boyd did just that, rifling his 16th double of the season into left field to score Donaldson and send Slater to third base.
That brought up Burdeaux, who said he and Boyd had a brief conversation before the latter's at-bat.
"He told me before that at-bat, "I'm going to get to second, so just hit me in,'" Burdeaux said.
Burdeaux did just that, snapping a Ragsdale curveball past a diving Austin Langham at third base and into left field, easily scoring Slater and Boyd and setting off a celebration that wound up beneath the scoreboard in left-center field.
"We're identifying ourselves that we're a special club," Berry said, "and we're special because we never quit."
USM is off to one of the best starts in program history, a game better than the only Golden Eagles to host a NCAA Regional, the 2003 team, and tying the start by the 2011 team.
Braley said this species of Golden Eagle is looking to fly even further.
"This team is special," Braley said. "Kirk (McCarty, three-year starting pitcher) was just talking about that. He said all we ever hear about is the 2009 team and how good they were.
"But you need to start thinking about 2017 and about us going forward. If you don't believe it now, if you can't believe it after what we've done the past two days, then I don't know (what else we can do)."