Southern Miss now rides a six-game win streak after coming away with a pair of wins in Saturday’s doubleheader against the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
It was a balanced pair of wins that featured explosive hitting and dominant pitching in the Golden Eagles 4-1 and 9-2 wins over the Blazers.
Two really well-played games by us, from the starting pitching, to the offensive and having the bottom of the order show up today,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “We played outstanding defense. We made some really nice plays out there.”
Golden Eagle Hitters Improving
In the first 19 games of the season, the Golden Eagles hit over .300 as a team in one game, which was in Southern Miss’ 13-4 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Since the start of conference play, the Golden Eagles, who have improving their average to .246, have had five games in which the team has batted over .300. In USM’s six-game win streak, the Golden Eagles have hit .333 as a team.
“I think we have to credit our hitting coaches, coach (Travis) Creel and coach (Nick) Ammirati, and the work that they are doing with our guys,” Berry said. “Then let’s credit our guys for the work they are wanting to do to get better. I think you are seeing that the success is built around drawing more walks, not getting ourselves out, not swinging at pitches that are out of the zone like we did earlier, not being in a hurry to get our at-bats over with.”
Southern Miss totaled 22 hits in the doubleheader win. In the first game, the Golden Eagles had nine hits in their 4-1 win, while in the second, they totaled 13 hits.
Southern Miss’ starting pitchers Walker Powell and Ben Ethridge put together in what would be a dominant outing for most programs combined to have a typical outing for the Golden Eagles’ pitching staff.
The duo combined to allow eight hits and just two earned runs on the day.
“They picked up where (Hunter) Stanley left off (on Friday) night,” Berry said. “I think they all three have a mound presence of that of professionals. They don’t get sped up. If a call doesn’t go their way, they don’t show a lot of emotion about it and are very even keel. I think when they are on the mound, they are the leaders.”
Powell completed the first game and allowed one run off three hits while striking out four batters and not giving up any walks. Powell’s only blemish came in the fifth inning as he allowed a solo home run.
Ethridge threw six innings and allowed one earned run off five hits. Like Powell, his only flaw of the day was a solo home run that he gave up in the sixth inning.
Ethridge also gave credited part of his success from notable defensive plays made by Will McGillis, Dustin Dickerson, Christopher Sargent and Gabe Montenegro.
From an offensive perspective, the catcher position has not delivered this season. Andrew Stanley entered Saturday batting .111 while Blake Johnson was batting .140.
“That spot has been struggling for us,” Berry said. “That position has been struggling for us offensively. Defensively they have both played well. It’s been kind of a toss-up on who to catch. A lot of it has been based on who is throwing.
“Big day for both catchers.”
However, the trend of Southern Miss breaking out of its hitting slump carried over to the duo.
In the first game, Stanley was 2-for-4 with two RBI. Stanley hit an RBI single to extend Southern Miss’ lead to 2-0 in the second inning. Stanley then added cushion for the Golden Eagles with an RBI double in the sixth inning to push the lead to 3-1.
In the second game, Blake Johnson stepped in the first 3-hit game of his career as a Golden Eagle. Johnson finished the day 3-for-3 and got Southern Miss on the board with an RBI single.
The Long Ball
Reece Ewing and Danny Lynch broke open the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Ewing, who finished 2-for-3, delivered a 3-run home run in the third inning to extend USM’s lead to 4-0.
“Early in the at-bat, I was chasing some pitches and rushing myself,” Ewing said. “When I got to two strikeouts, I just realized that he didn’t have anything that I thought he could beat me with, so I just slowed everything down and got a pitch that I could hit.
Then in the fifth inning, Lynch hammered a grand slam to centerfield, which broke the game open to an 8-0 lead. According to Ewing, he credits the team’s recent success in simply having more trust in the approach at the batter’s box.
“I think it’s a lot of trusting in yourself with the approach that we have going up to the plate,” Ewing said. “I think we are all trusting (our approach). As you can see recently, we have played a lot better. We are just believing in it now.”
Sunday’s first pitch is set for 1 p.m.