HATTIESBURG – Southern Miss coach Scott Berry has a lot of concerns about his team’s consistency in the last eight games. Since winning two-of-three at Florida Atlantic, the Golden Eagles are 4-4 overall with two of those losses to conference opponents.
The latter came Saturday afternoon in a 7-1 defeat to Western Kentucky at Pete Taylor Park.
“With those eight games, we have not defended the ball well,” Berry said. “Offensively, we have not put good swings on it. We’ve had to come from behind several times. Of the innings the opposition has scored, maybe like 20 in those eight games, almost half of them are big innings.”
The Hilltoppers scored a lone run in the first inning then four runs in the third inning to open up the game. A two-run fourth pushed their lead to 7-0 over Southern Miss. The loss came after the resumption of Game 1, which was delayed Friday night due to weather. Southern Miss claimed the first game 8-2 to set up a rubber match Sunday a 1 p.m.
A silver lining from the first two games, though, was the performance of the Eagles’ bullpen. Combined, the group pitched 12 innings of relief and allowed just two earned runs on nine hits. Through the first two games, those pitchers were made up of Adam Jackson (four innings), Sean Tweedy (.2), Mason Strickland (2.1), Keller Bradford (1) and Cody Carroll (four).
After Wednesday’s loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, Berry insisted his bullpen needed to find more consistency. Even though the Golden Eagles split the first two games with WKU, it was not the fault of their relief pitchers.
Junior Nick Sandlin left Friday’s start after pitching one inning due to shoulder tightness, and the four guys out of the USM ‘pen held WKU down for the remaining eight innings. On Saturday, starter Stevie Powers allowed seven runs – all earned – on nine hits. He did strike out seven while walking only one, but his day was done after five innings.
Carroll pitched near flawless in the final four innings, but he did walk four.
“We’ve come in, like yesterday, we’re able to inherit after Sandlin went down on us,” Berry said. “Certainly, Jackson, Strickland and Keller did a great job for us. Today, Cody Carroll came in and really controlled everything. He gave us a chance. We just didn’t catch up offensively.”
As far as the offense on Saturday, the inconsistency reared its ugly head. Southern Miss had plenty of runners on base, stranding 10 in the contest, but couldn’t string together enough hits to bring guys home. Southern Miss was 5-for-20 with runners on base and 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“I think more than anything, you don’t fear failure,” Berry said when asked if there was a magic answer. “That’s where we are right now. We’re afraid we’re going to fail instead of being aggressive, being confident and going out there, we have to control our own emotions and try to win baseball games.”