HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Nick Sandlin pitched one-run ball over a career-high eight innings as 14th-ranked University of Southern Mississippi downed Rice University 12-1 Friday in the opening game of a three-game Conference USA series at Pete Taylor Park.
USM (18-6,6-1 C-USA) led the Owls 4-0 after five innings, then after Rice (11-17, 1-6) nicked Sandlin for a run in the sixth, the Golden Eagles tacked on eight more runs in the eighth inning on three hits and six walks.
Sandlin (4-0) allowed just a run two hits, didn't walk a batter and struck 13. It was the fourth time this season that Sandlin had collected 10 or more strikeouts in a game this season.
Matt Wallner smacked two doubles and a single, walked once, drove in run and scored once. Luke Reynolds scored three runs, walking three times and doubling once. Gabe Montenegro had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run, while shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd hit a double and single, drove in two runs and scored once.
The Golden Eagles collected nine hits off five Owls' pitchers, getting to Rice starter Matt Canterino (2-4) for four runs (two earned) on five hits over 5 2/3 innings. Rice pitching also walked 14 Golden Eagles, tying a USM single-game record, including six in a row in the eighth inning, four with the bases loaded.
USM grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Montenegro singled and Matthew Guidry and Reynolds walked to load the bases to start the game off. Wallner singled to score Montenegro and Daniel Keating's sacrifice fly scored Guidry.
USM bumped the lead to 3-0 in the third inning when Reynolds doubled, moved to third on Wallner's flyout and scored on an infield error.
The Golden Eagles went up 4-0 in the fifth, loading the bases on a Reynolds walk, a Wallner double and a Hunter Slater walk. Reynolds then scored on a passed ball.
Rice nicked Sandlin for a run in the top of the sixth inning when Andrew Dunlap doubled, went to third on an error and scored on Ryan Chandler's sacrifice fly.
But that was the only run Sandlin would allow, and USM buried any hopes of an Owls' rally with the eighth-inning outburst.
Montenegro singled to open the inning, advanced to second on wild pitch and went to third on Guidry's grounder. The parade around the bases then began as Reynolds and Wallner walked to load the bases, followed by run-scoring walks to Slater, Keating, Cole Donaldson and pinch-hitter Fred Franklin for an 8-1 lead.
Boyd followed with a two-run double to make the score 10-1. A wild pitch scored Franklin and moved Boyd up a base and he scored on Montenegro's grounder to the right side for the final runs of the night as USM sent 12 batters to the plate.
The series continues at 2 p.m. Saturday at Pete Taylor Park, with the series finale set for 1 p.m. Sunday.