Sandlin dominates in USM's 12-2 win over UTSA

Sandlin dominates in USM's 12-2 win over UTSA
The Golden Eagles will conclude spring drills at noon Saturday with the annual Black and Gold Game at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of  Southern Mississippi wanted nothing more Saturday afternoon than to get off to a good start in its Conference USA baseball opener.

Junior right-hander Nick Sandlin and the Golden Eagles' booming bats made sure USM did just that.

Sandlin allowed just three hits and matched a career high with 14 strikeouts in seven shutout innings and the Golden Eagles banged out 14 hits in rolling past the University of Texas-San Antonio 12-2 in the first of two games scheduled for Saturday.

First baseman Hunter Slater homered, doubled and singled, scored three times and tied a career-high with four RBIs and outfielder Matt Wallner homered for the second consecutive game as the 15th-ranked Golden Eagles (13-4, 1-0 C-USA) opened conference play with a win for a third consecutive season.

Sandlin (3-0) reached double-digit strikeouts for the third time in five pitching starts this season, tying the career best he established on Feb. 23 in a 16-2 USM win over the University of Tennessee-Martin.

Saturday, he limited the Roadrunners (7-9, 0-1) to two singles and a double, walking only one. In his five appearances, Sandlin has stuck out 55 and walked just three in 34 innings.

The Golden Eagles gave Sandlin plenty of support.

USM got to UTSA right-hander Karan Patel (1-1) early, tagging him for six hits and a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Outfielder Gabe Montenegro led off with a walk and moved to third base on a double down the right-field line by second baseman Matt Guidry.

Third baseman Luke Reynolds hit a liner that UTSA shortstop Joshua Lamb snared with a leap, but Lamb threw wild trying to double Guidry off second, allowing Montenegro to score and Guidry to move to third.

After Wallner came back from a two-strike count to draw a walk, putting runners on the corners, Slater singled to center field on the first pitch he saw from Patel to give USM a 2-0 lead.

After designated hitter Daniel Keating struck out, catcher Cole Donaldson lined a 1-2 pitch into center field to drive in Wallner, and outfielder Mason Irby drilled a shot over the head of center fielder Jonathan Tapia for an two-run triple and a 5-0 USM lead.

Boyd capped the first-inning outburst with a single to left-center field to drive in Irby.

Patel settled in, limiting USM to just a Montenegro single and striking out four Golden Eagles over the next three innings.

But Wallner ended the lull, taking Patel's first offering in the bottom of the fifth inning well over the fence in right-center field for his third home run of the season. Wallner has homered in three of his last four games.

Slater followed Wallner's blast with a double down the right-field line and Patel hit Keating with a pitch to put runners at first and second. Patel got a strikeout and fly out, but Boyd was safe on an error when Lamb dropped the ball trying to get it of his glove after a nice stop on a tough grounder to the hole at short.

That loaded the bases and finished Patel's day. Montenegro greeted reliever Hunter Mason with a two-run single to left-center, giving USM a 9-0 lead after five innings.

Patel allowed nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked two, struck out six.

USM went up 12-0 in the sixth inning when Reynolds singled, Wallner walked and Slater skied a rainbow well over the fence just to the right of the big, black wall in center field for his second home of the season.

UTSA which finished with six hits, got half of them in the last two innings off USM reliever Alex Nelms, including a two-run home run by third baseman Chris Estrada for the Roadrunners' lone runs.

Montenegro joined Slater with three hits, driving in two runs and scoring once. Reynolds, who saw a nine-game hitting streak end Wednesday at Tulane University, started a new one with two hits Saturday. Irby also had two hits, a triple and single, giving him six hits in his last two games.

The teams were scheduled to play a second game at 6 p.m. to make up for having Friday's game rained out.

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