MIAMI, FL (WDAM) - Mason Strickland gave the University of Southern Mississippi a stout performance out of the bullpen and the Golden Eagles banged out a season-high 19 hits, including four home runs, to top Florida International University, 15-7, Sunday afternoon.
With the win, USM captured the finale of thee-game Conference USA baseball series as the Golden Eagles (21-12, 11-4 C-USA remained a game back in the conference standings.
FIU (15-20, 6-9) saw a four-game winning streak snapped.
Gabe Montenegro celebrated his return to the top of the Golden Eagles’ batting order by going 4-of-6, including leading off the ballgame with his second home run of the season. He scored four runs and drove in a pair.
It was one four homers the Golden Eagles belted Sunday afternoon, including:
- A solo shot by Hunter Slater, his fifth, in a four-run, fourth inning
- A three-run no-doubter by Matt Wallner, his seventh, in the seventh inning. It was Wallner’s second of the series and 42nd of his career, tying him for sixth on the all-time list with former outfielder Dusty Haley (1997-2001)
- A three-run blast by Erick Hoard, his second, in a four-run, fourth inning
Eight of USM’s nine starters had a hit Sunday, with the first seven in the batting order posting multi-hit games, including:
- Bryant Bowen, double, two singles; two runs; RBI; extended team-best hitting streak to 17 games
- Matt Guidry, double, two singles; two RBIs; run scored
- Hunter LeBlanc, two singles; run scored
- Wallner, home run, single; four RBIs; two runs scored
- Hoard, home run, single; three RBIs; two runs scored
- Slater, home run, single; 2 runs scored; RBI
Danny Lynch singled to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
Strickland (3-0) rescued USM starter Gabe Shepard after he gave up two runs in the bottom of the first inning and then issued a leadoff walk to start the second inning.
Strickland pitched into the seventh inning, allowing just a run and two hits over his first five innings.
He gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Austin Shenton in the seventh inning before giving way to J.C. Keys and Hunter Stanley to cover the final two innings.
Keys worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning before three walks loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. Stanley got a fly out that scored FIU’s final run before getting a game-ending groundout.
Strickland allowed three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out one.
Montenegro’s home run gave USM its first lead of the weekend in the top of the first inning before the Panthers went up 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on a run-scoring single by Shenton and two-out double by Jose Garcia.
FIU made it 3-1 in the second inning on Derek Cartaya’s single.
Guidry’s double in the third cut USM’s deficit to 3-2 before Garcia’s homer pushed FIU’s lead back to 4-2.
But the Golden Eagles hit the Panthers with a four-spot in the fourth inning to take a 6-4 lead. The rally included Slater’s solo shot, Lynch’s grounder to the right side that scored two runs and Montenegro’s run-scoring single.
USM’s lead grew by three runs in the top of the seventh when Wallner deposited a fastball over the wall in left-center field.
Shenton got two runs back in the bottom of the inning with a two-out homer, but the Golden Eagles put the game away with a four-run eighth inning, highlighted by Hoard’s three-run shot, and then added two more runs in the ninth on run-scoring singles by Guidry and Bowen.
USM stays on the road, heading to Mobile, Ala., to face the University of South Alabama at 6 p.m. Tuesday.