The string of frustrating losses continues to pile on for Southern Miss as the Golden Eagles have now dropped six of their last nine games after suffering an 8-7 loss to UTSA on Friday night.
While the Golden Eagles' lineup returned Reece Ewing, who drew four walks on the night after missing the last eight games, the peak of frustration was seen in the bottom of the eighth. The Golden Eagles had the bases loaded with one out and trailed by a run, but instead, Christopher Sargent and Slade Wilks struck out to end the threat. It was an instance that Southern Miss coach Scott Berry pointed out as an example of the Golden Eagles' recent hitting problems.
"I think it's all just a lack of confidence," Berry said. "I think we have been punched in the mouth. We have lost six of the last nine now. It's just taking that sting. It was good to see Reece Ewing back in (the lineup). If there is something you learn about Reece Ewing is that he didn't swing at pitches out of the zone. He took four walks. The guy hasn't seen the field in, I don't know how long, and takes four walks and doesn't get himself out where you saw other guys swing at stuff outside of the zone that have been playing for a long time. It really hurt us there."
Southern Miss (36-14, 18-7) went down 1-0 to start the game after starting pitcher Tanner Hall had a rare slow start as he loaded the bases with no outs. Hall walked in a run, which was just his 10th of the season, to give UTSA (33-16, 17-8) a 1-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, Carson Paetow gave USM the lead with a 3-run home run, but that momentum existed briefly after UTSA scored six runs in the top of the sixth.
Hall, who neared 100 pitches, loaded the bases again before being pulled. Reliever Landon Harper didn't fair much as the Roadrunners scored off five consecutive at-bats. Harper gave up an RBI single before Isaiah Rhodes ended the inning with a strikeout.
"We are playing a good UTSA team that would never let us have the momentum," Berry said. "Every time that we did, they answered, I think in all but one inning we scored. We are not playing very good baseball right now, all the way through. We played hard until the end. I'm not taking anything away from that, we created opportunities, but we just didn't cash in."
In Hall's outing, he allowed four runs off five hits, struck out eight batters, walked two and hit two more.
"I thought he settled in after the first inning, but the pitch count in the first inning is what got him," Berry said. "I think he threw 25 pitches. (He's) sitting in there in the sixth inning, and he's closing in on 100 pitches, which is not like him."
Southern Miss score consecutively in the next three innings, with Paetow driving in a run with an RBI sac fly in the sixth. Slade Wilks drove in a run off a fielder's choice in the seventh, while Gabe Montenegro and Dustin Dickerson both hit RBI singles in the eighth to make the game 8-7.
Despite that production, Southern Miss still missed on opportunities as the Golden Eagles stranded seven of the 11 base runners between the sixth and ninth innings.
Southern Miss now holds just a one-game lead over UTSA in the Conference USA standings.
"They are all big games," Berry said. "If we didn't have pressure on us before, we certainly, have it on us now. I told them, 'Exhale and let's get after it tomorrow.' That's all we can do."
Saturday's first pitch is set for 2 p.m.