HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - For the first time this season, the University of Southern Mississippi found itself trailing in a baseball game Sunday afternoon at Pete Taylor Park.
But a three-run rally in the seventh inning gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good, and what looked like an insurance run in the eighth inning proved to be the game-winner for a second consecutive day in an 8-7 victory over visiting Murray State.
Sophomore designated hitter Charlie Fischer went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three runs batted in as USM (3-0) finished off a three-game sweep of the Racers (0-3) with a second consecutive one-run win.
“Charlie Fischer, he swung it well all weekend,” USM coach Scott Berry said of Fischer, who was 7-for-8 over the weekend’s final two games. “He was the guy who delivered the big blows.”
The Golden Eagles had to come from behind three times Sunday, finding themselves trailing 2-0 in the first inning, 3-2 in the third and 6-4 hole in the sixth.
USM answered with three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Murray State junior reliever Jake Jones issued back-to-back walks to lead off the inning, with Blaylock moving up a base on a wild pitch.
Fischer singled to bring Blaylock home and send Lynch to second. Freshman right fielder singled to load the bases, and after an infield pop-up, Jones hit freshman shortstop Dustin Dickerson with a pitch to force in Lynch with the game-tying run.
Junior left fielder Gabe Montenegro, who had to leave Saturday’s game in the second inning after being hit on the left hand in the first, drove in Fischer with the go-ahead with a sacrifice fly to left field.
“We had some Guatemalan coffee beans flown in last night,” Berry said. “He ground ‘em up into a paste, put it on that hand, and it’s magic, he’s back in the lineup.”
Jones (0-1) allowed three runs on three hits in two innings. He walked three, struck out two.
The Golden Eagles made the score 8-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Senior second baseman Matt Guidry was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, moved to second base on a two-out grounder and reached third base on a wild pitch. Fischer’s double down the left-field line brought home Guidry.
The run proved big when USM freshman reliever Isaiah Rhodes (1-0) gave up a solo home run to pinch-hitter Brock Anderson to lead off the top of the ninth inning.
But Rhodes bounced back and got three groundouts to end the game.
“How important did those extra runs become both days in the eighth inning?” Berry asked.
Rhodes allowed one run on one hit in three innings. He didn’t walk a batter, struck out two.
Rhodes was the fourth Golden Eagle to take the mound, the deepest USM had dipped into its bullpen this season.
Freshman left-hander Chandler Best made his career debut, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits in two innings. He walked one, struck out one.
Freshman right-hander Matt Adams followed, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit. He walked one, struck out five.
“The best thing is that we got three guys out there who got their feet wet,” Berry said of the three freshmen who took the mound Sunday. “Matt Adams rally gave us a shot in the arm.”
Senior right-hander Sean Tweedy went 2/3 of an inning, allowing a run on one hit. He walked one.
Montenegro went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Blaylock doubled, singled and walked, while Lynch doubled and walked.
Fischer, Lynch and Blaylock each scored a pair of runs.
Murray State senior right fielder Ryan Perkins, who homered in Saturday’s game, hit a double and single Sunday. He drove in two runs and scored once.
Junior shortstop Jordan Holly had two singles for the Racers.
The Golden Eagles will welcome the University of New Orleans to Pete Taylor Park at 6 p.m. Tuesday.