OXFORD – Southern Miss needed a bounce-back win as the Golden Eagles faced elimination in the Oxford Regional. To say the least, they got it as Southern Miss blew out Southeast Missouri 21-0, which was highlighted by a six-home run day by the Golden Eagles, with Christopher Sargent belting three of those.
"We did a lot of things right today," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "Everybody in the lineup except for one had a hit. Several had multiple hits with extra-base hits. We did a lot of things well today. There wasn't a whole lot that I remember that went wrong from the pitching, defense side to the offensive side. We ran the bases extremely aggressive, going from first to third and creating opportunities for us and then taking advantage of them at the plate."
The offensive onslaught, naturally, broke or tied several of the program records in an NCAA tournament game. As a team, Southern Miss' 21 runs was set against South Alabama in 1999, with the Golden Eagles' 24 hits shattering the previous record of 20. In addition, the Golden Eagles' six home runs in a single game are tied for most in USM's tournament history.
Sargent's three home runs are also the most in a game in the NCAA tournament for the Golden Eagles. Both Sargent and Reed Trimble's five RBIs are tied for the most in program history in the NCAA tournament. Gabe Montenegro and Trimble's five hits also tied the program's most hits in a game in tournament history.
"We just came out today knowing we had a chip on our shoulder," said Sargent, who was 3-for-6 with five RBI. "We have been pressing a little bit these past few games. We just came out today with a chip on our shoulder, relaxed and had fun.
"Early in the game, I was chasing out. I settled in and just thought about letting the ball get deep and just ran with some barrels. I was seeing the ball well. I knew they were going to come after me with a bunch of breaking balls. I sat on the off-speed and got my swing off."
The list of highlights goes on, but the most impressive part is that the various records were all accomplished by the seventh inning as a 1 hour and 20-minute weather delay put off the inevitable outcome of the game with the Golden Eagles leading 20-0.
After the game remained scoreless in the first two innings of the game, the Golden Eagles put up crooked numbers for five straight innings. Southern Miss (38-20) started scoring in the third inning as the Golden Eagles open with a 4-0 lead. From there, the Golden Eagles scored four more in the fourth, two in the fifth, five in the sixth, seven in the fifth and added their last run in the ninth.
Adding to the carnage were home runs from Dustin Dickerson, Danny Lynch and Will McGillis.
"Those pitches that they got, they didn't miss them," Berry said. "That's what's important. Call them mistakes or whatever, but a lot of times, you'll see people foul those pitches back. When you are on them and hit, then that's the results you get.
"Reed, with the day he had, he used all of the field. He had some big hits and kept the momentum going and kept driving in runs as did Danny Lynch, and Gabe (Montenegro), all of those guys had great at-bats."
As memorable as Southern Miss' hitting was, what will likely be forgotten was a combined shutout performance by the Golden Eagles' pitching staff that starter Walker Powell spearheaded. Powell held Southeast Missouri (30-22) to four hits and struck out four batters in six complete innings. After the rain delay, Aubrey Gillentine, Matt Adams and Tanner Hall finished the game as they allowed no hits.
"I was glad that Walker went as deep as he did," Berry said. "I hate that the rain delay entered into it. But very thankful that Adams, Gillentine and Hall came in and covered those innings, one apiece, with minimal pitches because we have to win three games now from here on out. We will need all those guys available and more to accomplish that."
Southern Miss will play the loser of Ole Miss-Florida State at 1 p.m. on Sunday.