Southern Miss swept its second consecutive home series last week, as it relied on strong pitching performances to win three games against Missouri State.
Southern Miss escaped with a 2-1 victory in the first game against Missouri State with strong pitching performances from senior Hunter Stanley, sophomore Ryan Och and sophomore Garrett Ramsey.
Stanley played through seven innings and threw his highest pitch count of the season with 115 total pitches for seven strikeouts, three hits, two walks and no runs allowed.
“Every time he takes the mound, you know you have a chance to win,” Head Coach Scott Berry said.
“I was proud of myself for still being able to compete even though I didn’t feel like I really had my best stuff,” Stanley said. “But winning is winning. It doesn’t matter much what it looks like.”
Ramsey took the mound to close the game in the ninth. Ramsey allowed one hit, but struck out three of Missouri State’s batters to earn his fifth save on the season.
“He’s five for five coming out of the pin in big moments with the game on the line[,] and he showed his worth again as he came out there and completed the save,” Berry said.
Sophomore Will McGillis gave the Golden Eagles its first run of the game with a double RBI in the second inning. Southern Miss then jumped to a 2-0 lead in the fourth when another sophomore, Christopher Sargent, hit a single RBI.
Missouri State threatened to score with two runners on base in the seventh, but Stanley prevented any runs to close out his performance.
“He [Stanley] was able to get out of that seventh inning. He had first and third with two outs and he was able to get out of it. I felt like it was a very great pitching performance on his part,” Berry said.
Sargent got his second hit of the game soon after with a double sent down the left-field line, but Southern Miss did not get any more runs in the inning.
“I thought he [Sargent] had some really good at-bats, even though he had a couple of strikeouts, he had the big double down the left-field line on a hanging breaking ball and then later what proved to be the game-winning RBI. […] I think Sarge continues to hold that four spot for us very nicely,” Berry said.
Och took the mound in the eighth and Missouri State got onto the scoreboard with a double RBI. Southern Miss prevented any further damage by stopping two of the Bears’ runners from scoring.
“The play of the game was Sarge picking the ball on a slow roller and short hopping. If he doesn’t do that, we’re behind the run going into the bottom of the eighth,” Berry said on reflection. “That was really crucial to the outcome of the game.”
Southern Miss’ pitching again led the way for Southern Miss, as senior Walker Powell threw eight scoreless innings for a 5-0 victory.
“The way that Stanley and Powell have pitched back to back and the way our bullpen’s performed, it’s pretty tough to come back from any kind of run deficit,” Berry said.
Powell finished with six strikeouts, three hits and one walk allowed on 107 total pitches. Powell has thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, and his performance earned him Conference USA’s Co-Pitcher of the Week award.
“I thought that his tempo and his poise reflected the way that we played defensively,” Berry said. “Our coaches did a great job of positioning our guys with the shift to take away any hits they might have but Walker pitched to his strength. […We] couldn’t be [prouder] of him and the consistency that he gives us every time.”
After being held scoreless for the first four innings, Southern Miss scored in the next three consecutive innings.
Sophomores Charlie Fischer and Reece Ewing walked home during the fifth with loaded bases. The Golden Eagles had four walks total during that inning.
“Where we didn’t get it by the swing of the bat, we did it with patience at the plate making sure they could command the zone and they didn’t,” Berry said.
Fischer then boosted the Golden Eagles’ lead with a two-run double the next inning. Redshirt freshman Andrew Stanley’s sacrifice fly in the seventh solidified the game, as it gave Southern Miss a 5-0 lead.
“We’re trying to get our offense going and day by day, I think we’re improving and starting to have better at-bats,” Fischer said. “I was able to find a gap and get these guys going a little bit.”
Southern Miss started the first inning with bases loaded, but failed to convert any runs. The Golden Eagles had multiple opportunities to score throughout the game, but left eleven runners on base by its end.
However, Southern Miss ultimately controlled the flow of the game, as they got the Bears off the field quickly while forcing more pitches. After two innings, Powell had thrown just half of Missouri State’s total pitch count.
“I just wanted to jam the cutter and establish the fastball early,” Powell said. “It definitely did give me confidence. That was the strategy going in. We knew that was going to be something that mattered.”
Powell allowed a double in the seventh, which was the only runner he allowed past first base in the game.
Southern Miss finished the series sweep with a strong start at-bat and a near-perfect performance from freshman Ben Ethridge.
While Southern Miss started with slower hitting percentages in the first two games of the series, the Golden Eagles got off to an early start with two hits and two runs in the first inning. Junior Gabe Montenegro hit a single on the second pitch of the game, traveling home once freshman Reed Trimble hit an RBI triple down the right-field line. Fischer then grounded out to send Trimble home for a 2-0 lead.
“He [Missouri State’s pitcher] threw me a fastball with a little cut on it[,] but he wasn’t throwing too hard, so I had time to get my hands on it,” Trimble said.
Southern Miss scored one run in the third inning, but did not record another hit for the remainder of the game.
Still, Ethridge controlled the game by retiring the Bears’ first 16 batters in order. He allowed his first hit in the sixth and a solo homer in the seventh.
“It’s my favorite thing whenever I get in a groove and people can’t hit me because I just keep going and everybody gets mad at me or it seems like they get upset whenever they get out and then I just look at them and I’m always smiling,” Ethridge said.
Ethridge finished with six strikeouts, two hits and one run allowed throughout seven innings.
The defense also made key plays throughout the game by catching multiple fly balls, including a diving effort from McGillis in the fifth inning.
“Those guys [Missouri State] were really swinging and they were not easy to strike out,” Ethridge said. “It was just more of focusing on getting weak contact hits that way it was in an easy place for the defense just to go there to catch the fly ball or to field a ground ball.”
Ramsey took the mound to close out the game in the ninth and allowed runners on first and third, but managed to maintain his perfect save record.
“We just got a great crowd to come out and just put in all out on the field for them and to get all three games, it just feels even better,” Trimble said.
Southern Miss will begin conference play in a four-game home series against Louisiana Tech starting March 26.