Southern Miss (24-13, 14-4 C-USA) completed a three-game sweep over the Charlotte 49ers with an 8-6 victory on Saturday morning. The Golden Eagles won the first two games in a Friday doubleheader by scores of 14-3 and 7-1.
The Golden Eagles’ offense got back on track in the series, recording five home runs over the three contests. Three of those home runs were hit by Matt Wallner, bringing his season total to 10.
“We seem to have guys like that on every team who are just always long ball threats and pick up the rest of the offense,” head coach Scott Berry said. “Matt is certainly that for us this year. He’s swinging with a lot of confidence right now.”
Wallner credited his recent success at the plate to being able to get back to having fun as a team.
When asked how he celebrates home runs, Wallner said, “This year we’re kind of doing the whole Saints thing, where you just take pictures and all. It sounds silly, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes just to be having fun.”
Pitching picked up as well for the Golden Eagles, who got three quality performances from this weekend’s starters. Walker Powell pitched eight innings of shutout baseball in Game One before giving up three runs in the top of the ninth inning. The second game featured Stevie Powers, who allowed just one run on seven hits through seven innings pitched. Mason Strickland started the final game on Saturday and gave up just three runs on six hits through five innings.
Even the bullpen delivered a solid performance on Saturday when J.C. Keys was called to the mound with bases loaded, no outs, and a two-run advantage for the Golden Eagles in the eighth inning. Keys forced two ground outs and struck out one to retire the side with no runs allowed.
Berry says he learned nothing new about his weekend. He knew his team could pitch, hit, and make big defensive plays in tight spots. The key going forward, however, is being able to do those three things consistently.
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years,” Berry said. “I know you aren’t going to win every game. Even the best Yankees teams couldn’t go undefeated. But you want to get where you’re executing on a regular basis, and that usually results in winning a lot more than you lose.”
Now 14-4 in conference play, Southern Miss sits in second place behind Florida Atlantic (26-11, 13-3 C-USA) in the Conference USA with roughly one month remaining in the regular season. The Golden Eagles will host FAU in a three-game series starting Friday, May 3, at Pete Taylor Park. For now, though, the team will turn its attention toward two non-conference games in the days to come: Tuesday at home versus Louisiana-Lafayette and Wednesday on the road versus New Orleans.