University of Southern Mississippi baseball coach Scott Berry summed up Sunday afternoon at Baum Stadium very succinctly.
“(Sunday) was a tough day,” Berry said after watching his Golden Eagles be eliminated from the Fayetteville Regional with a 9-4 loss to Dallas Baptist University.
“Certainly didn’t want to end it like we did, and it’s tough when that last one ends your season.”
The third-seeded Patriots (42-20) avenged an opening-round, 9-0 loss to the second-seeded Golden Eagles (44-18) by cranking out five home runs, including four solo shots, among the 11 hits they amassed off four USM pitchers.
“Those boys can hit, bottom line,” said USM starting pitcher Walker Powell, a Fayetteville, Ark., native who was pitching on his hometown’s biggest baseball stage. “They were better than us (Sunday), so they get to move on.”
Dallas Baptist, which earned a spot in a regional title game for a fourth consecutive NCAA postseason, were to face regional host and unbeaten University of Arkansas (41-18) at 7 p.m. Sunday
If the Razorbacks win, they would win the regional championship and earn the right to host a best-of-three Super Regional at Baum Stadium next week.
If the Patriots win Sunday night, it would set up a one-game, win-or-go-home rematch at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
For USM, it would be a long Sunday night of reflection.
After beating Dallas Baptist in the opening round, a Golden Eagles’ offense that had ranked among Division I’s most prolific offenses managed just 10 hits and six runs over consecutive losses to Arkansas and Dallas Baptist.
“We didn’t compete like we needed to,” Berry said. “We didn’t come out and do the things we need to do at this time of year to play, especially in a do-or-die game. Hats off to Dallas Baptist.”
The Patriots certainly had since their Friday night loss at the arm of USM’s Nick Sandlin.
In their two games in the elimination bracket, Dallas Baptist scored 27 runs on 30 hits, including nine home runs.
Eight of DBU’s homers in that stretch were solo shots, including bases-empty clouts Sunday from right fielder Devlin Granberg, designated hitter Matt Duce, first baseman Kody Funderburk and third baseman Tim Millard.
Catcher Garrett Wolforth hit a three-run home run followed by Millard’s solo homer as the Patriots’ seized control with a four-run, fifth inning.
“Dallas Baptist made (us) pay for it with some good swings on it,” Berry said. “We just couldn’t get anything back.”
Sophomore right-hander Luke Eldred was the main reason for that.
Through eight innings, Eldred (7-3) allowed two runs _ both coming on a two-run home run by USM second baseman Matthew Guidry _ on two hits _ both by Guidry.
Toting a seven-run lead, Eldred came back out for the ninth inning, but lasted just two batters. He gave up a single to center fielder Matt Wallner and then surrendered first baseman Hunter Slater’s second home run of the regional.
That brought Eldred’s day to a close after 119 pitches. He walked two and struck out seven, allowing four runs on five hits
Reliever Jimmy Fouse came on and got the final three outs to finish off the Golden Eagles.
“Outstanding performance by Luke Eldred, especially when you look at Southern Miss and the team they have and the season they’ve had and the lineup they have,” Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner said. “So, to say that he gave us what we asked for and more would be an understatement.”
Powell (7-3) gave up a run in each of the four innings he performed, including a trio of solo shots, starting with Granberg in the first inning, Duce in the second and Funderburk in the fourth.
Granberg, who had gone 9-of-12 through DBU’s first three regional games, parked Powell’s first pitch in the left-field patio for his 13th home run of the season, and Duce hit his 10th homer of the season with two outs in the second inning.
Guidry tied the game with two outs in the third inning. After left fielder Gabe Montenegro walked, Guidry skied an Eldred offering deep past the right-field wall for his fifth home run of the season.
But Dallas Baptist took the lead for good on two singles, a double steal and a dropped popup in short left field, and then went up 4-2 in the fourth inning on Funderburk’s 13th home run of the season.
“They are really disciplined at the plate and didn’t swing at a lot of balls outside the zone,” said Powell, who need 81 pitches to get through his four innings.
USM reliever Trent Driver started the fifth inning but never saw the sixth, lasting just 2/3 of an inning and allowing four runs on three hits.
After a two-out double just inside the first-baseline by center fielder Jameson Hannah, Driver hit shortstop Jimmy Glowenke to put men on first and second. Wolforth then knocked his sixth home run of the year, a three-run shot, to right field and Millard immediately followed to left field with his 16th of the season.
The Patriots led 8-2, Eldred was in a groove and USM was behind a very large eight ball.
Dallas Baptist tacked on a run in the seventh inning before the Golden Eagles’ truncated rally in the ninth inning.
“It’s a game of momentum, and, certainly, DBU got the momentum, they kept it and we didn’t do anything to take it back,” Berry said. “But what I don’t want to be overshadowed in all of this for our program and our season is all the great things this group accomplished.
“That’s what we talked about after the game … the regular-season conference title, the (conference) tournament title, which is hard to do winning both of those … Disappointed that it’s over, but very proud of these young men.”
Copyright WDAM 2018. All Rights Reserved.