Story by: Dima Mixon
Southern Miss dropped a must-win matchup against the UTSA Roadrunners 11-2 ending their hopes at a conference title.
The achilles heel in this Southern Miss ball club was their hitting all year. The hitting woes continued as Southern Miss came up with just seven hits and two runs in an elimination game.
“We are going to have an off-day tomorrow, and reset our minds. Relax and come out Monday and get a good practice in and have a good practice all week and come back wherever the committee puts us and we will go from there,” Shortstop Dustin Dickerson said.
Southern Miss was the No. 1 seed in the tournament and has won the regular-season C-USA title, and a tournament win would be a massive boost to an incredible season. The UTSA Roadrunners had a different outcome in their mind, besting Southern Miss twice in the tournament to eliminate them from that contention.
Against FAU on Friday night, USM couldn’t muster a run across until the seventh inning. This afternoon was no different. In the first six innings, Southern Miss came up with four hits and no runs.
“That guy came in, and he could throw a slider and a fastball for a strike wherever he wanted and he was able to spot the ball wherever he wanted to. We just have to bounce back. We’ll be alright,” First baseman Christopher Sargent said.
RHP Matt Adams started the game for the Golden Eagles and started the game struggling to get outs. In the top of the second inning, after giving up a lead-off single, he left one over the plate, and Garrett Poston blasted his second knock of the year to give UTSA the 2-0 lead. From that point on, UTSA never lost the lead or any momentum in the contest.
“Matt, he competed. He didn’t command the zone like we wanted,” head coach Scott Berry said. “I don’t think he had command of that secondary or that fastball. I’ve seen him better. But when it’s all said and done he gives up the two-run home run and error in the third. You just can’t do that with a team like this and expect to get away with it and we didn’t.”
Southern Miss has not won a Conference USA tournament title since 2019 and that will be their last Conference USA title because they will be moving to the Sun Belt starting on July 1.
After the 2-0 lead, UTSA extended the lead in the top of the third inning, thanks to a sac-fly and an RBI-fielder’s choice by Josh Killeen, which would extend the lead to 4-0.
Southern Miss would get some good relief pitching after that by Tyler Stuart. Stuart would post a 4.1 IP, 4 K’s, 3 H and 0 R.
Southern Miss would find a squeak of life at the top of the seventh inning after two singles to lead off the inning by Danny Lynch and Will McGillis. Carson Paetow would hit one in with an RBI single of his own.
Blake Johnson would walk and Gabe Montenegro would score another with a fielder’s choice RBI. That would make the score 4-2 and then Dustin Dickerson batted into a backbreaking double play.
UTSA took no time to respond with a six-spot eighth inning to break the game wide open. They would add another run in the ninth, which would make the score 11-2.
“I think we could swing it better, we could play better defense, and we could pitch it better. I think we could get better at every asset of the game and I think we will this week,” Dickerson said.
Southern Miss falls to No. 20 RPI on WarrenNolan.com and is still in a position to host a regional, but it will be a toss-up.
“UTSA just had our number this weekend, and we didn’t respond. I was really disappointed with how we played today, obviously. We just didn’t take good swings, our approach at the plate wasn’t what it needed to be. We didn’t create opportunities that you need to be able to win in games like this especially when your back is against the wall,” Berry said.
Last year, the National Champion’s Mississippi State Bulldogs lost twice in the SEC tournament getting run-ruled both times; Southern Miss’s season is not over.
But the confidence in the hitting is still a concern.
“They’re (the batters) going to have to get in there and compete. We know that,” Berry said.
Southern Miss doesn’t win a Conference Tournament but they still have bigger goals in mind.
“There’s bigger goals than just winning the conference tournament, we want to win a National Championship. It sucks, yeah it does, but we gotta reset,” Dickerson said.
Southern Miss’s National Title hunt starts next weekend, with the selection show on Monday morning.