SportsHunter Riggins shines, Southern Miss advances to semifinals after...

Hunter Riggins shines, Southern Miss advances to semifinals after blanking FAU 5-0.

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Photo by Dima Mixon

By: Dima Mixon

In a Conference USA tournament elimination game, the No. 14 Southern Miss Golden Eagles blanked Florida Atlantic to move onto the semifinal round in the Conference USA tournament.

Hunter Riggins’s starting pitcher for Southern Miss had an absolutely stellar performance on the mound. He started turning on the juice after he loaded the bases in the bottom of the third inning and left fielder Reece Ewing made a spectacular grab on the wall to avert the grand slam.

“I saw it when he hit it and I was like, stay in here, stay in here, and he was able to get up there and make a nice play,” third baseman Danny Lynch said.

Ewing was trying to redeem one that he missed earlier in the season.

“As soon as it was hit, the first thing I was thinking about was just to get to the wall and work off that if I was just to get to the wall and work off that if I was going to have a chance to make the play. And that’s what I did,” Ewing said.

Photo by Dima Mixon

Ewing saved what would have been a 4-0 lead for FAU in the bottom of the third inning. Given that Southern Miss hadn’t even mustered up a hit to that point by far the play of the game. Head Coach Scott Berry agreed.

“Play of the game? Probably bases loaded in the bottom of the third. Ball off the left field wall that Ewing makes a great catch and I thought really brought the attention to Riggnin’s,” Berry said.

The player of the game is Riggins. In tournament play, it’s always so important to get the most out of your starting pitchers. Riggin’s pitching tonight posted a final line of 7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 7 K, 0 ER and 110 TP.

“Oh wow. After that inning (of the catch) I think he had his best outing all year for sure. I mean he was rolling, spotting up, going after their best hitters. He did a great job. I’m proud of him,” Ewing said.

“I don’t want to extend anything. I just want to go out there and pitch the best I can,” Riggins said.

There was no score until the seventh inning and Southern Miss didn’t even round up a base hit until the fourth inning and didn’t get another one until the sixth. The Golden Eagle offense finally got going in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Lynch started everything with a double and he was plated in a close play at the plate by Rodrigo Montenegro to take the lead and get the first runs on the scoreboard.

After a couple of walks, UTSA pitcher Robert Wegielnik would walk in another run that would extend the lead to 2-0.

Photo by Dima Mixon

Southern Miss added another three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to secure the victory. Christopher Sargent would lead off the inning with a double and Lynch would score him with a double of his own.

Then Carson Paetow plated Lynch with a double of his own, which would plate two more runs. Southern Miss led 5-0 going into the ninth inning and they are 35-0 this season when leading after eight innings and they made it 36-0 this evening.

“Huge win. You had to win. What the committee does and what they do is out of our control other than we have to give them a reason to not leave us out,” Berry said.

It is safe to say that Southern Miss is in the tournament, but getting this win greatly helps their chances at hosting an NCAA Regional.

Southern Miss stands at No. 12 RPI and 43-15 on the season, along with 25 conference wins. It should be good enough to host an NCAA Regional.

Photo by Dima Mixon

They have a chance to add to that resume tomorrow as they will face UTSA in the semifinals. They will have to beat UTSA twice to get to the Championship game on Sunday. The first pitch is set for approximately 12:30 pm.

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