HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ Two more stellar starting pitching performances Saturday propelled the University of Southern Mississippi to a Conference USA baseball doubleheader sweep of the University of Alabama-Birmingham at Pete Taylor Park.
In the opener, senior Walker Powell picked up his 25th career victory, tossing a complete-game, three-hitter as the Golden Eagles topped UAB 4-1.
In the nightcap, freshman Ben Ethridge threw five scoreless innings as USM built an 8-0 led on its way to a 9-2 victory.
On the day, the Blazers managed just eight hits in two games.
Both games were seven-inning affairs as prescribed by C-USA’s COVID-19 conference series guidelines.
With the doubleheader sweep, USM (20-9, 7-3 C-USA) clinched the four-game series against the Blazers (10-19, 3-8). The Golden Eagles will go for a series sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday at Pete Taylor Park.
In Saturday’s first game, the Golden Eagles got production out of the bottom of the batting order, with second baseman Will McGillis, catcher Andrew Stanley and shortstop Dustin Dickerson combining for five of USM’s nine hits, three of its four runs and all four of its runs batted in.
The Golden Eagles also got a gem of a pitching performance from Powell. The right-hander did not allow a hit through the first 4 1/3 innings before UAB shortstop John Marc Mullins broke up the no-no with his fourth home run of the season.
Powell (5-1) then allowed just infield singles by Darryl Buggs and Jess Davis over the final 2 2/3 innings. Powell walked no one, struck out four.
USM took a 2-0 lead in the second inning off UAB starter Riley Davis.
Christopher Sargent reached on infield single, moved to second on a Danny Lynch walk and scored on McGillis’ double down the left-field line. Stanley followed with single to left field to bring home McGillis.
Mullins’ homer pulled the Blazers within a run before USM put up two unearned runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
An error put McGillis at first base, and Stanley followed with a run-scoring double off the top of the wall in left field. Dickerson brought home Stanley with a single.
Riley Davis (2-3) went the distance for the Blazers, allowing four runs (two earned) on nine hits over six innings. He walked two, struck out two.
Stanley and McGillis had a double and single apiece, with Stanley driving in two runs and McGillis scoring twice.
In Saturday’s second game, Ethridge (3-1) allowed just two hits through the first five innings before giving up Caleb Floyd’s pinch-hit solo homer among UAB’s three hits in the sixth inning.
Ethridge wound up allowing one run on five hits in six innings, while walking one.
Auburey Gillentine allowed an unearned run in the seventh while striking out one.
Gillentine’s strikeout came on the UAB’s final batter of the game and was USM pitching’s lone whiff of the game.
Instead, the Golden Eagles deflated the Blazers’ offense early with four, highlight-reel defensive plays _ two by left fielder Gabe Montenegro and one each by McGillis and Dickerson _ and some nifty glove work by Sargent at first base that turned potential UAB hits into outs.
On offense, USM cranked out 11 hits, but two big swings put the game out of UAB’s reach.
The Golden Eagles led 1-0 after Lynch doubled and then scored on catcher Blake Johnson’s single in the second inning.
USM made it 4-0 in the third when Reece Ewing lined his fourth home run of the season over the wall in right field with two Golden Eagles aboard.
Two innings later, Lynch bombed his seventh home run of the season, a moonshot into the pine trees beyond the right-center field with the bases loaded.
It was Lynch’s fourth home run in his last five games and USM’s third grand slam of the season.
USM wrapped up its scoring on a pinch-hit double by Slade Wilks in the sixth inning.
UAB starter Tyler O’Clair (2-2) took the loss, allowing six runs on eight hits in four innings. He walked two and struck out two.
Johnson went 3-for-3, while Lynch and Ewing had two hits apiece. Montenegro extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a single in the first contest and two more hits in the second.