Southern Miss went into Saturday’s baseball game with only three starters hitting over .300 and facing an Old Dominion pitcher who sported a 4-0 record and a 2.10 earned run average.
But the Golden Eagles battered ODU pitcher Ryne Moore for six runs (five earned) and six hits in 3.0 innings and went on to beat the Monarchs 14-4 in the second game of their Conference USA weekend series.
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It was USM’s 10th victory in the past 11 games and gave the team a 14-6 overall record and a 5-0 mark in Conference USA.
“The storyline is probably the two-out RBI hits,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “I think we scored 10 of the 14 (runs) with that.”
Berry forgot about one. Official statistics had USM with 11 two-out hits that scored runs. Each team had 15 hits, but the Eagles made their count.
Gabe Montenegro, Hunter Slater, Bryant Bowen and Danny Lynch each contributed three hits to the cause.
Montenegro, Matthew Guidry, Slater, Brant Blaylock, Bowen and Lynch each drove in two runs for Southern Miss.
Another important factor was that USM scored at least one run in each of the first six innings and led 14-3 at that point, making life easier for pitchers Mason Strickland, Adam Jackson, Cody Carroll and Brooks Warren.
Jackson (1-0) got the win.
Lynch, the freshman third baseman who entered the game hitting .217, had three hits for the first time as a collegian and also drew a walk.
“Last night I started to feel a little better and kind of the last few weeks I’ve been feeling a little bit better and I finally put it together,” Lynch said.
Lynch said the Southern Miss hitting seems to be catching up with the pitching.
“Early in the year the pitching was awesome,” he said. “Now we’re starting to put together some good at-bats. Even when we got a lead (Saturday), we kept pushing for more runs.”
After USM starting pitcher Strickland got out of a jam that was not his fault in the top of the first inning, Golden Eagle leadoff batter Montenegro singled to right on the first pitch he saw. He went to second on a groundout by Guidry and scored on a single to center field by Blaylock to give USM a 1-0 lead.
Donaldson opened the second inning for Southern Miss by reaching when the ODU center fielder lost a high fly in the sun. Two outs later, after Will McGillis was hit by a pitch, Montenegro singled to right, scoring Donaldson. McGillis also scored on the play when the throw from right got past the Old Dominion catcher to give USM a 3-1 lead.
In the third inning, Slater walked and Matt Wallner singled and each moved up a base on a balk. That’s when Bowen hit two-out single to left field to score both runners and make it 5-1.
Strickland was relieved after 3.1 innings with two on and one out. Jackson came on and retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, three straight walks and a hit batter accounted for one run and Wallner’s sacrifice fly to left field scored another for Southern Miss. Later in the inning, Lynch stroked a two-out, bases-loaded single to center field to score two more runs and make it 9-1.
Old Dominion scored twice in the top of the fifth but Hunter Slater singled in a run in the fifth to put USM ahead 10-3.
Montenegro came up big again in the sixth with a two-out single that drive in another run to make it 11-3 and Guidry ripped one off the center-field wall to make it 13-3. Slater followed with a run-scoring single and it was 14-3.
The Monarchs scored their last run in the ninth inning.
“We had a lot of guys contribute to the win, a lot of crooked numbers on the board, they kept turning the lineup over, kept extending the innings with a lot of two-out hits,” Slater said. Those are back-breakers.”
Southern Miss and Old Dominion (15-7, 1-4) will play the final game of their three-game series at 11 a.m. Sunday at Pete Taylor Park. Gabe Shepard, a freshman from Mobile, Ala., is scheduled to start for the Eagles.