After losing 9-8 against East Carolina Wednesday night in the opening round of the C-USA baseball tournament, defense down the stretch allowed third-seeded Southern Miss to squeeze past second-seeded University of Alabama-Birmingham 4-3 Thursday afternoon at Pete Taylor Park.
The game went down to very last pitch, but the Golden Eagles came out victorious.
Through the first three innings, neither team was able to put runs on the board, despite Southern Miss having the bases loaded with one out twice through four innings.
In the fourth inning, Austin Roussel hit a sacrifice fly, allowing Mason Robbins to score to give Southern Miss a 1-0 advantage. From there, in the fifth, Robbins blasted a RBI-single deep into centerfield, bringing Michael Sterling to home plate to increase the Golden Eagles lead to 2-0.
UAB scored its first run of the game in the sixth inning after catcher Mitch Williams converged on a RBI-double to the center wall, allowing Nathan Vincent to score.
The Golden Eagles (33-24) scored another run in the seventh off of a Matt Durst infield single, bringing the score to 3-1. Meanwhile, the Blazers (35-21) looked as if they would score to further cut into the deficit, loading the bases to open the seventh inning. However, Southern Miss pitcher Bradley Roney entered the game, causing Vincent to hit a pop up and leading to an inning-ending double play.
In the eighth, Nick Dawson doubled to the left center field to give the Golden Eagles a 4-1 cushion before the Blazers came back with a strong offensive surge.
Tyler Mims blasted a RBI-double for UAB. Then, Matt Morse singled to midfield, moving Mims to third before and allowing him to score on a wild pitch for the Blazers. To end the inning, Adam Lau singled to left field, allowing Morse to move to third base. After a pinch by Lau and Ryan Prinzing walked, Peterson advanced to second base. Griffin Gum then hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, allowing Morse to score and cutting the Golden Eagles lead to 4-3.
Despite having the bases loaded, Southern Miss failed to score in the ninth. However, defensively, the Golden Eagles stood tall when they needed to. Center fielder Connor Baron caught a shallow fly, followed by Roney’s fly ball and strikeout to end the game.
“We kept grinding,” said USM coach Scott Berry. “We found a way to win with our backs against the wall in a survival game, which every one of them is from here on out.
With the win, Roney tacked on his 12th save of the year and 30th of his career, tying Collin Cargill’s school record.
Both teams combined for a total of 25 hits and nine walks. The Golden Eagles move on to face sixth-seeded East Carolina in an elimination game today at 6:30 p.m. This game will be a rematch from Wednesday’s 11-inning thriller in favor of the Pirates. For the Blazers, their season ends, finishing 35-21 on the year.