USM finishes baseball sweep of Liberty with 7-2 win Sunday
From University of Southern Mississippi Sports Information Department
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Matthew Etzel drove in two runs from the top of the order and Nikko Mazza threw 5 1/3 strong innings in his first career start to lead the University of Southern Mississippi to a 7-2 victory Sunday over Liberty University.
The victory gave the 18th-ranked Golden Eagles (3-0) a sweep of the season-opening series with the Flames (0-3) at Pete Taylor Park.
USM has won nine consecutive season-opening series, including eight, three-game sweeps over those years.
This weekend, USM pitching allowed Liberty (0-3) three runs in three games, with only two of those runs earned,
Mazza (1-0), a sophomore from Madison, Miss. who was celebrating his 21st birthday Sunday, limited Liberty to four hits and two walks with a career-best six strikeouts
Mazza gave up only a RBI-single by Gray Betts in the third inning. He retired eight in a row at one point to earn his first career Golden Eagle victory.
The Golden Eagle’ offense jumped out to an early lead with a solo run in the first inning.
Dustin Dickerson swatted an one-out double, his first of two in the game, and stole third base before Carson Paetow drove him in on a groundout to shortstop.
After Liberty tied the game in the third inning, USM took the lead for good with a pair of runs in the fifth.
Rodrigo Montenegro and Danny Lynch waked to start the inning, each moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt.
Montenegro broke the 1-1 tie when he came home on a wild pitch before Etzel’s double down the first base line scored Lynch for a 3-1 lead.
USM went up 4-1 in the sixth inning when Tate Parker scored on a wild pitch.
The Golden Eagles pushed across their final three runs in the eighth inning.
Parker led off the eighth with a solo homer to left-center field for his first home run as a Southern Miss player.
Slade Wilks followed one pitch later with a double and Johnson reached base on a fielding error.
Lynch followed with a double of his own to score Wilks and Johnson came across on Etzel’s sacrifice fly.
Liberty added its final run on a solo home run by Camden Troyer to open the ninth off Justin Storm.
Troyer’s homer was the only extra-bat hit in the series for the Flames.
Golden Eagle reliever Billy Oldham got two outs to finish off Mazza’s final inning before giving way to J.B. Middleton.
Middleton fanned four in two innings of work and Storm got the final three outs in the ninth.
Liberty starter Mikey Tepper (0-1), a transfer from Mississippi State University, gave up three runs on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts to suffer the loss.
The Golden Eagles continue their season-opening homestand Tuesday when they entertain the University of New Orleans. Game time is 6 p.m. at Perte Taylor Park.
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