After two, one-run walk-off victories to clinch the weekend baseball series with Georgia Southern University, the University of Southern Mississippi left little doubt on its way to a sweep.
First baseman Hunter Slater’s two-run home run and RBI-doubles by center fielder Matt Wallner and third baseman Luke Reynolds keyed a four-run, fifth inning that fortified a 8-2 victory Saturday night at Pete Taylor Park.
The teams had been scheduled for single games Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but inclement weather forecasts shuffled the schedule.
USM (11-4) won Friday night’s opener 4-3 on Slater’s bases-loaded single that one-hopped the left-field wall in the bottom.
Saturday’s game, originally scheduled for 2 p.m., was bumped up to noon to dodge what was supposed to be rough weather later in the day. Instead, the expected bad weather had been pushed back into Sunday, so the teams decided to play games at noon and 6 p.m. Saturday.
USM won the afternoon opener 3-2 on Wallner’s two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and then the Golden Eagles got the bats going to knock around three GSU pitchers for 11 hits in the nightcap.
GSU (7-9) grabbed a 1-0 lead off USM starter Cody Carroll in the second inning on Noah Searcy’s RBI single, but the Golden Eagles answered with three runs in the third on a wild pitch, Matt Guidry’s run-scoring triple and an error.
USM made it 4-1 in the fourth inning on a double by designated hitter Daniel Keating, a single by catcher Cole Donaldson and a sacrifice fly by right fielder Mason Irby.
The Golden Eagles strung together six hits with two outs in the fifth inning to push the lead to 8-1. Guidry singled and scored on Reynolds’ double to right field. After moving up on a wild pitch, Reynolds scored when Wallner drilled a double over the first baseman’s head into right field to make the score 6-1.
On the next pitch, Slater went opposite field over the left-field fence for his first home run of the year.
Shortstop Mitchell Golden led off the sixth inning against USM reliever Adam Jackson with his first homer of the season to round out the scoring.
Carroll allowed a run on three hits in four innings, walking two and striking out four. Reliever Calder Mikell (1-0) gave up a hit in a scoreless fifth inning to get the win.
GSU starter David Johnson (1-1) took the loss, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out four.
In Saturday’s first game, Wallner picked a perfect moment to park his first home run of the season.
Wallner followed a walk to Reynolds with a towering fly ball over the left-field fence in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Golden Eagles’ dramatic Saturday comeback came just moments after GSU had scored twice with one out in the top of the ninth for a 2-1 lead.
GSU catcher Matt Anderson singled off reliever Keller Bradford to start the ninth and moved to second on a bunt. That ended Bradford’s night and brought Jarod Wright out of the bullpen.
Wright promptly walked first baseman Jason Swan and then surrendered consecutive, run-scoring singles to second baseman Steven Curry and third baseman Chandler Corley to erase a tenuous 1-0 USM lead.
But in the bottom of the inning, GSU starter Seth Shuman walked Reynolds on five pitches and Wallner took the next pitch the opposite way for the game-winning hit.
Jacob Wierich (2-0) picked up the win by getting the final two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Shuman (2-1) saw a personal, 10-game winning streak snapped after allowing three runs on six hits, walking one and striking out eight.
Southern Miss starter Stevie Powers left the game with a 1-0 lead after left fielder Gabe Montenegro drove in Irby with a third-inning single.
Powers turned in 6 1/3 innings scoreless innings, the longest outing of his career, allowing six hits, walking one and striking out a career-high 10.
Powers ran into a jam to open the seventh inning when he walked Shuman and Anderson followed with a double down the left-field line.
After getting a weak grounder to first base that froze the runners, Powers was lifted in favor of Bradford, who struck out Swan and got Curry on a fly out to end the inning.
GSU outhit the Golden Eagles, getting 10 hits to Southern Miss’ six. Wallner was the only Golden Eagle with more than one hit, adding a sixth-inning single to go with his homer.
Anderson was 4-for-4 with a double and three singles, while Curry had two singles for GSU.
USM will travel to New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to take on Tulane University at Turchin Stadium.
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