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USM baseball bounces back big to advance in Oxford

Updated: Jun. 5, 2021 at 2:57 PM CDT
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OXFORD, Miss. (WDAM) _ Perhaps Saturday morning was nothing more than survival, a chip-on-the-shoulder, go-down-swinging reaction to taking a punch to the nose and getting a taste of one’s own blood.

Or, maybe, perhaps, it simply was a matter of limited options, with only one way to go with your back against the wall and durned if somebody didn’t put Baby crying in a corner

Or maybe, perhaps just maybe, it had a little something to do with not seeing the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year for a second consecutive day.

Just maybe.

Whatever the reason, the University of Southern Mississippi turned into baseball furies a couple innings into its walking-on-a-thin-line-from-here-on-out meeting with Southeast Missouri State University Saturday morning.

The Golden Eagles absolutely assaulted anything covered in white leather and red stitching as if it had just insulted their mothers.

“We came out swinging (Saturday),” said USM senior Walker Powell, who added six more innings of excellence to a memory box already crammed full of such.

“That’s all you can ask for as a pitcher, and we didn’t stop (swinging) until the final inning.”

By game’s end, the Golden Eagles had beaten up seven Redhawks for two dozen hits in a 21-0 victory over the bracket’s fourth seed.

A dozen of those aggressive, angry, near-anti-social swings ended up as extra-base hits, with a half dozen banged for doubles, another half dozen mashed beyond the field of play.

“We came into (Friday) with a chip on our shoulder,” said USM first baseman Christopher Sargent, who hit home runs 14, 15 and 16 Saturday.

“We came in knowing this could be our last time to play as a team together.”

Which is exactly the situation the second-seeded Golden Eagles (38-20) will face every time they step onto Swayze’s diamond the rest of this weekend and possibly early next week.

Still, Saturday certainly offered a bit of balm for a first-day, 5-2 loss to third seed Florida State University.

That loss instantly made everything more difficult, cutting the bindings to any safety net and forcing the Golden Eagles to now win out if they want to win a regional.

Which it seems they still do.

“We want to win this thing, and coming in, we knew after losing that first game that it was going to be a long road back to the championship,” Powell said.

So, basically, the Golden Eagles gargled Saturday morning, rinsing the bad taste of a tough loss from the craw and breaking the dial at the one-game-at-a-time setting.

That first next game comes at 1 p. m. Sunday, when USM gets FSU (31-23) in a rematch after the Seminoles threw away a 4-3 decision to top seed Ole Miss (43-19) Saturday night.

“Our guys are in survival mode,” USM baseball coach Scott Berry said. “It’s either win or go home.

“Our backs are against the wall. We had to get after it.”

And, oh my, did USM ever get after it Saturday.

Consider:

  • Leadoff man Gabe Montenegro grounded out in the first inning then reached base in six consecutive at-bats, including a pair of doubles, three singles and a hit-by-pitch. He scored four times, drove in a pair of runs
  • Second-hole hitter Reed Trimble lined out in his first at-bat, then cranked five consecutive hits, driving in five runs and scoring twice with two doubles and three singles
  • Sargent got the long-ball trio, scored three runs and drove in five runs
  • Third baseman Danny Lynch continued his postseason tear, the lone Golden Eagle to collect a hit before the third inning Saturday. Lynch finished 4-for-5, including a homer, double and two singles, walked once, scored twice and drove in a pair of runs
  • Will McGillis, homered, singled, walked, scored three times and drove in two runs
  • Catcher Anthony Stanley had two hits, a walk and three runs scored
  • Nine-hole hitter Dustin Dickerson doubled, homered, scored three runs and drove in two.

The bottom third of USM’s lineup Saturday, McGillis, Stanley and Dickerson, combined to go 6-of-15 (.400) with nine runs scored and four RBIs.

“No doubt, they were seeing the ball well, and when they got their pitches, they didn’t miss them,” Berry said, referring to the entire lineup.

“Friday, we left 10 (runners) on, and it really hurt us. Today, we left nine on but pushed across 21. That was the difference.”

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