By: Dima Mixon
Christopher Sargent accounted for three of the six home runs by No. 14 Southern Miss lifting the Golden Eagles past the UTSA Roadrunners 9-5 to clinch the series. After Friday’s loss, Southern Miss had dropped six out of their last nine.
One of the differences is that Left Fielder Reece Ewing is back in the lineup to give the Eagles some life on the offensive side, but he doesn’t think so.
“It was hard, but I don’t think it had as big of a deal with being missing as some people were saying we couldn’t hit. We just weren’t hitting, there has been stretches this year where everyone on the team couldn’t hit. We’re going to hit,” Ewing said.
Also, Sargent, who has been struggling, had three home runs that gave Southern Miss the winning edge.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit these past few days and just this month, I haven’t done my best. The biggest thing is that I’ve got to keep my confidence. I know that I can hit,” Sargent said. “Once I hit the first one, I felt my swing coming back and it just builds off the rest of my swing. I got a homerun swing and once it starts going good, it could get dirty.”
Southern Miss needed to win this series to keep their Regional Host hopes alive and it gives them breathing room in the race for the Regular Season Crown in Conference USA.
The beginning of the game was off to a shaky start as starting pitcher for the Golden Eagles, Hurston Waldrep, gave up a to run home run in the top of the first inning. Southern Miss would answer immediately in the bottom of the first, with Dustin Dickerson reaching on a single. Then Ewing would bat him in with a double and Sargent would send the ball over the fence for his first of the day.
UTSA would grab the lead back in the top of the third, putting up three runs and making the score 5-3. Sargent would then hit his second home run of the day, following that a Wilks home run on the next pitch to tie the game at five apiece.
Southern Miss would then take the lead on an Ewing two-run home run to give them a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
“I saw exactly what he got me out on, on the bat before and I wasn’t going to let that happen again,” Ewing said. “It was kind of a sigh of relief just to get that one out of the way.”
Southern Miss would add two more runs on two separate solo home runs by Sargent and Carson Paetow to give the Eagles the 9-5 victory.
“I can’t say enough over the last two days about our offense and the approach, especially since it carried over into today, we only struck out one time. We took a lot of nice takes and didn’t swing at a lot of balls outside of the zones. We got in advantage counts with our hitters and mad them pay for it,” Southern Miss Head Coach Scott Berry said.
While the offense was the major turnaround, pitching in this game was crucial in critical moments. None more important than the top of the eighth, where Southern Miss was up by three runs and UTSA had runners on first and second with no-one out. Landon Harper came in to get the save and downed three batters in a row to end the inning with no runs scored.
“How about that, inherits runners at first and third, nobody out and gets out of it. Huge momentum swing right there,” Berry said. “His last performance wasn’t the best, but he chose not to have that performance today.”
The positives for this game outweighed the negatives for Southern Miss; 12 hits, six of those resulting in home runs. Berry expressed the need to focus on the next game and not look ahead in the post-game.
“I think you can look at either way. I mean you can worry about it. Or you can embrace the opportunity that’s in front of us and you know, that’s what I want to simply and be mature about. Embrace opportunity, we got a chance to win the next game on Thursday and that’s what we need to do,” Berry said.
Southern Miss will take on Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro this weekend for the final regular-season series.