NORFOLK, VA - Strong pitching and a second consecutive day swinging the bats added up to a 9-2 victory Sunday for No. 11 University of Southern Mississippi at Old Dominion University.
USM (32-11, 16-4 Conference USA) won a season-best ninth consecutive game as the Golden Eagles wrapped up their 11th consecutive conference series win with a second straight sweep of a C-USA opponent.
The Golden Eagles jumped on the Monarchs (12-29, 5-15) early and never looked back. As they had in a 9-4 victory Saturday, USM mashed out 15 hits and again, every Golden Eagle starter had at least one hit.
All told, the Golden Eagles battered ODU pitching for 39 hits in the three-game series at Bud Metheny Baseball Complex.
Sunday's big bats provided all the run support right-handed starter Walker Powell (5-2) would need. The sophomore went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on eight hits. He struck out three and walked two.
Reliever Mason Strickland got the last out of the sixth inning to quell an ODU rally and then turned in another three innings of one-hit, shutout baseball to pick up the first save of his USM career.
After ODU had cut Southern Miss' lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning and had runners on second and third with two outs. Strickland got a weak tapper in front of the plate to end the threat, then handcuffed the Monarchs over the final three frames, striking out one and walking none.
Meanwhile, for second consecutive day, USM's offense continued to add to a lead every time ODU threatened.
The Golden Eagles scored twice in the first inning off ODU starter Jason Hartline (1-3).
Gabe Montenegro led off the game with a double for the second consecutive day and scored on Matt Wallner's two-out single. After a single by Hunter Slater, Daniel Keating brought home Wallner with a double.
USM made it 3-0 in the third when Mason Irby reached on an error, went to second on LeeMarcus Boyd's bunt single, third on Montenegro's bunt and scored on Matthew Guidry's sacrifice fly.
ODU touched Powell for an unearned run in the bottom of the second when Will Morgan reached on error and eventually scored on Bryce Windham's two-out single.
But the Golden Eagles got that run back in the third for a 4-1 lead when Slater reached on a two-base error in the outfield, went to third on a passed ball and scored on Keating's sacrifice fly.
USM tacked on another run in the sixth inning on Cole Donaldson's double and Boyd's run-scoring single for a 5-1 lead, before Craig Lopez' single in the bottom of the inning got ODU back within 5-2.
That was the final hurrah for the Monarchs. With Strickland sending potential ODU baserunners back to the dugout, USM added two runs in the seventh inning on Irby's two-run double and another pair in the ninth on run-scoring singles by Boyd and Montenegro.
Boyd led Southern Miss with three hits and two RBIs. Keating had a pair of doubles, two RBIs and a run scored. Wallner hit two singles, scored twice and drove in a run.
Montenegro finished with a double and single, a run scored and a run driven in. Irby had his two-run double and scored a run and Luke Reynolds hit two singles and scored a run.
Windham led ODU's offense with a double and two singles, while Matt Schwarz added two singles.
USM returns home at 6 p.m. Tuesday to welcome long-time rival Tulane University to Pete Taylor Park.