No. 15 USM bounces back to trounce Nicholls State, 20-4

No. 15 USM bounces back to trounce Nicholls State, 20-4
USM (9-9, 2-3), which saw a two-game winning streak snapped. (Photo source: USM)

PENSACOLA, Fla. - After losing a four-run lead in a disappointing loss Saturday, University of Southern Mississippi baseball coach Scott Berry said he thought his Golden Eagles bounced back quite nicely.

USM catcher Bryant Bowen matched career highs with three hits and four runs batted in as the Golden Eagles closed out the Cox Diamond Invitational Sunday afternoon by pounding Nicholls State University 20-4.

The runs were a season-high for the 15th-ranked Golden Eagles, who scored in each the last eight innings of the game, and their 16 hits were the second most in a single game this year.

"We did what we needed to do after a tough game (Saturday) night," Berry said. "We looked at this as a weekend series, with an opportunity to come out (Sunday) and win the series, and that's what we were able to do."

The Golden Eagles (8-3) finished 2-1 in the round-robin tournament at Blue Wahoos Stadium, home to the Cincinnati Reds' AA affiliate. USM defeated Eastern Michigan University 9-4 Friday night before losing a four-run lead and dropping a 9-6 decision to Ohio State University Saturday.

With Eastern Michigan defeating Ohio State 6-1 in Sunday's first game, three teams finished with 2-1 records in the three-day tourney.

Nicholls State (1-10), which lost 11-5 to Eastern Michigan in 10 innings Saturday, dropped all three of its ballgames.

Making his first start of the season, sophomore right-hander Cody Carroll pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, walking one and striking out two. He also hit three batters.

"I thought he gave us just what we needed," Berry said. "He threw strikes, commanded the strike zone and did a really good job."

Carroll was the first of five Golden Eagles to take the mound Sunday, with reliever Sean Tweedy (1-0) picking up the win in relief by getting the final two outs of the fifth inning.

Southern Miss gave Carroll plenty of runs to work with.

After stranding baserunners at second and third in the first inning, the Golden Eagles put together its highest-scoring inning of the season, scoring eight times on six hits off starting left-hander Bryan Taylor (0-3) and reliever Austin Bollinger.

Designated hitter Daniel Keating led off with a single and scored on Bowen's double to left-center field. USM added two more runs on a fielder's choice grounder and a Nicholls State error before third baseman Luke Reynolds' bounced a ball over the wall in right-center for a runs-scoring, ground-rule double and a 4-0 lead.

With left fielder Jaylon Keys at third and Reynolds at second, right fielder Matt Wallner walked to load the bases. First baseman Hunter Slater forced Keys at the plate for the second out, but Keating ripped a bases-clearing triple to center field and Bowen singled to drive him in for the second time in the inning for an 8-0 lead.

USM tacked on two runs in the third inning on Wallner's double and Slater's single, added three more in the fourth inning on shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd's first hit of the weekend, a bases-loaded walk by Reynolds and a fielder's choice grounder by Wallner.

Slater, who exited Sunday's game in the bottom of the third inning to give Erik Hoard playing time, hit .461 over the weekend with three runs scored and four RBIs.

Bowen made it 14-0 in the fifth inning by driving in Keating for the third and then drove in his fourth run with a grounder in the sixth.

Mason Irby's hit single in the seventh inning pushed the score to 16-0 before Nicholls State touched up Alex Nelms for three runs on five hits in the seventh inning.

Casey Maack, who started at second base Sunday and tied his career high with three hits, crushed a pitch over the left-field fence for his first home run of the season and a 17-3 lead.

The Colonels added another run in the eighth, but USM answered with three runs in the ninth, including a two-run double by reserve catcher Robert Iocabelli.

Keating, who hit .363 (4-of-11) with four runs scored and six RBIs over the weekend, went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBIs Sunday.

Reynolds had two hits, scored twice and knocked in two runs Sunday, giving him 19 runs and 18 RBIs in 11 games, both team highs.

The Golden Eagles will visit Tuscaloosa, Ala., at 6 p.m. Wednesday to take on the University of Alabama.

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