USM drops baseball series finale to Western Kentucky, 9-4

Updated: Apr. 26, 2021 at 1:11 AM CDT
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From University of Southern Mississippi Sports Information Department

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – Western Kentucky University scored seven runs over the final four innings Sunday, including a five-run, sixth inning, to grab the final game of a Conference USA baseball series 9-4 at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Golden Eagles (26-13, 13-6 C-USA) had won the first three contests at Pete Taylor Park to win the four-game weekend series with Hilltoppers (19-21, 9-11).

But USM’s bullpen got knocked about in the latter stages, and the Golden Eagles could muster just four hits off WKU pitchers Luke Stofel, Ryan O’Connell and Dalton Shoemake Sunday at Taylor Park.

The Hilltopper trio did issue seven walks and hit three batsmen, giving the Golden Eagles’ scoring opportunities.

But Stofel and O’Connell were able to minimize the damage and keep the score close early, and Shoemake was stingy in the end game, allowing just two hits and two walks over the final three innings.

USM would end up stranding 11 baserunners, leaving the bases loaded twice.

By the time Shoemake entered to get the final two outs of the sixth inning, WKU already had shifted control of the game in its favor.

USM took a 2-0 lead in a one-hit second inning.

After loading the bases on two walks and a hit batsman, Blake Johnson was hit by a pitch to bring in the first run and a Dustin Dickerson single scored the second.

After WKU tied the game off USM starter Drew Boyd in the top of third inning, Christopher Sargent united it with his team-high eighth home run of season to give the Golden Eagles a 3-2 lead.

The lead lasted for two innings.

In the top of the sixth, Boyd was pulled after giving a lead-off double to Richard Constantine.

Blake Wehunt entered, and after getting a groundout that moved Constantine to third base, gave up a game-tying single to Kevin Lambert.

Ricardo Leonett followed with a single, and then an error allowed Lambert to score the go-ahead run and send Leonett to second base.

USM turned to Tanner Hall out of the bullpen, who uncorked a wild pitch to move both WKU runners up a base, walked Ty Crittenberger and then gave up a two-run double to Ray Zuberer for a 6-3 WKU lead.

Tyler Stuart came in for Hall and walked Justin Carlin before Jackson Gray’s sacrifice fly gave the Hilltoppers a four-run cushion.

USM got a run back in the bottom of the inning on Gabe Montenegro’s RBI grounder to close to 7-4, but WKU added single runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings to keep the Golden Eagles at bay.

Sunday’s loss kept USM in second place in C-USA’s West Division, though the Golden Eagles did not lose any ground to division front-runner, Louisiana Tech University.

Marshall University earned a series split with the Bulldogs, winning the final two contests of the four-game series, including Sunday’s 7-2 victory.

Boyd went five-plus innings Sunday for USM, allowing three runs on three hits. He walked three, struck out six.

Wehunt (1-1) took the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits in 1/3 inning.

O’Connell (1-3) picked up his first win of the season, allowing a run on no hits in 2 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out two.

Shoemake picked up his first save of the year, allowing no runs on two hits over 3 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.

Lynch had half of USM’s hit with a pair of singles.

Lambert and Carlin led WKU’s `12-hit attack with three hits each.

Lambert had a double and two singles, scored twice and drove in a run. Carlin hit a home run and two singles, walked once, drove in three runs and scored once.

The Golden Eagles return to action next weekend when they travel to Houston for a four-game C-USA series with Rice University.

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