HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ Those in attendance at Pete Taylor Park Sunday afternoon who raised a small eyebrow in the top of the seventh inning can be forgiven.
After all, USM starting pitcher Drew Boyd just had been lifted after six solid innings with the University of Southern Mississippi up 7-3 over the University of Alabama-Birmingham in its quest for a four-game sweep of the weekend Conference USA baseball series.
But reliever Matt Adams, who replaced Boyd, couldn’t find the strike zone, walking the leadoff man, who came around to score on a one-out, pinch-hit, ground-rule double that bounced near the left-field foul line and into the USM bullpen.
So, now the score stood 7-4 with one out, a Blazer at second and Adams far from his best.
Actually, no worries.
Ryan Och came in to get the final two outs and USM scored seven times over the next two innings to end the game early, logging a 10-run-rule, 14-4 victory in eight innings.
USM (21-9, 8-3 C-USA) won its seventh consecutive game to send the Blazers (10-20, 3-9) back to Birmingham, Ala., empty-handed.
The Golden Eagles cranked out a series-high 14 hits as USM matched its season high for runs.
Eight of the nine batters in USM’s starting lineup had at least one hit. Seven of the nine scored at least one run and/or drove in a run.
USM smashed three home runs to build an early lead. Christopher Sargent’s three run shot put the Golden Eagles ahead in the first inning.
After UAB pulled within a run in the top of the third inning with two unearned runs, USM went ahead 6-2 in the bottom of the inning on Charlie Fischer’s solo home run and Reece Ewing’s two-run homer following a Sargent triple.
Each team scored in the fourth inning and the score stayed 7-3 until the top of the seventh.
After Och got out of inning, USM scored two more run in the bottom of the seventh inning on singles by Lynch and Johnson.
The Golden Eagles closed the game out with a five-spot in the eighth. Sargent drove in a run with a bases-loaded grounder before Lynch followed with a run-scoring single to right field.
McGillis drilled a two-run single to center field and pinch-hitter Cade Crosby wrapped things io with a walk-off infield single to second base.
Boyd (2-2) picked up the win, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits over six innings. He walked none, struck out five.
Och got his first save of the season, allowing one hit over the final 1 2/3 innings.
USM pitching walked just three Blazers in 31 innings over four games.
Dylan Cunningham (1-3) took the loss for the Blazers, giving up three runs on two hits in an inning’s work. He walked two, struck out one.
Sargent finished with a home run, his fifth of the season, and a triple, driving in four runs and scoring three.
Ewing had a home run and walked, driving in two runs and scoring twice, while Trimble singled twice and walked, scored twice and knocked in a run.
Fischer hit a home run and single, walked, scored two runs and drove in another, while Lynch had a pair of singles, two RBIs and a run scored.
Gabe Montenegro extended his hitting streak to 14 games, going 2-for4 with a walk and a run scored.
Colton Schultz led AB’s eight-hit attack with three singles and a RBI.
USM will play a midweek game this week, welcoming the University of South Alabama to Pete Taylor Park at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The Golden Eagles then head west for the weekend for a key, four-game conference set with C-USA “travel partner” Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La.
Five of USM’s nine losses this season have come against the two teams the Golden Eagles face this week.