Southern Miss sacks Troy, 12-2

Southern Miss sacks Troy, 12-2
The Golden Eagles pummeled the Trojans 12-2 Tuesday night.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) _ As far as baseball bounce-backs go, Tuesday night worked out just fine for the University of Southern Mississippi.

Freshman right-hander Gabe Shepard gave the Golden Eagles his best start of the season and USM backed him with 16 hits on its way to a 12-2 victory over Troy University before an announced 3,362 at Pete Taylor Park.

“We played all three phases really well, and it started on the mound,” USM coach Scott Berry said.

The Golden Eagles (33-17), who dropped two-of-three Conference USA games over the weekend at Rice University, claimed their fourth consecutive midweek victory.

Shepard, who celebrated his one-year anniversary from Tommy John surgery in late April, struck out nine batters in five shutout innings, both career highs. He allowed three singles and walked two.

“By far,” Shepard replied when asked whether Tuesday had been his best effort as a Golden Eagle. “I filled up the zone, worked off my fastball and had them guessing at the plate. It was really a good mix-up of pitches.”

Shepard (1-0) got out a first-inning jam of his own making after allowing a single, uncorking an errant pickoff attempt and then issuing two walks. But he wound up striking out two in the first inning, eventually stranding runners at first and third.

After that, Shepard was in command, allowing just two singles and striking out seven more Trojans over his last four innings, including five in a row.

“All he has to do is fill (the strike zone) up, and he did that,” catcher Cole Donaldson said. “He’s got the stuff where he can just pound it in there and he will beat them. He’s got the (velocity), and (Tuesday), he matched it real well with his slider.”

Sean Tweedy, Alex Nelms and Brant Blaylock each added a scoreless inning before Troy (27-26) nicked Aubrey Gillentine for two runs in the ninth inning on a hit, two walks and a wild pitch.

The staff combined for 15 strikeouts, a season high for Golden Eagle pitching.

Shepard got plenty of offensive support, including:

· Donaldson, who had three hits, including a pair of doubles, while driving in a season-high four runs

· Designated hitter Bryant Bowen, who reached base four times on two singles and two walks, scored three runs and drove in one.

· Second baseman Matthew Guidry, who extended his “reach-base-safely” streak to 45 games with a pair of hits and scored twice

· Left fielder Gabe Montenegro, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a seventh-inning single

· Shortstop Will McGillis, who scored a pair of runs, and third baseman Danny Lynch, who came up with a pair of hits.

· Shortstop Will McGillis, who scored a pair of runs, and third baseman Danny Lynch, who came up with a pair of hits.

“Coaches had us working, hitting to the other side of the field, slowing the game down and trusting our swings a little more,” Donaldson said. “So, yeah, (Tuesday) was a huge night, getting the bats going, and then the big night by Gabe Shepard.”

In the seventh inning, the Golden Eagles got a two-run double from Storme Cooper, a defensive replacement for Guidry at second base, and a run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Erick Hoard.

While the Golden Eagles took advantage of six Trojan errors, USM beat up four of the six pitchers Troy threw at the Golden Eagles for at least two runs.

All told those four pitchers, including starter Bay Witcher and relievers Zack Moore, Ryan Fultz and Will Carnley, combined to allow 11 runs on 15 hits.

Witcher (0-1) allowed two runs on three hits, walking one and striking out two.

Troy got six hits, including a double and single from catcher Chase Smartt and a double by center fielder Logan Cerny.

USM will return to Pete Taylor Park for its final three games of the regular season with University of Alabama-Birmingham. The series begins at 6 p.m. Thursday.

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