There will be a second game.
Southern Miss, once in the driver’s seat for the Conference USA title game, now faces a do-or-die situation after suffering its first loss in the C-USA Tournament to Charlotte, 7-4, Saturday evening at MGM Park. The Niners fought back from a 4-2 deficit late in the ballgame, eventually winning on a walk-off, three-run home run from Tommy Bullock in the bottom of the ninth.
“First of all, hats off to Charlotte,” said Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry. “Their backs were against the wall, just like we were last year. It’s kind of funny. [Taylor] Braley did the same thing to them to force a second game, and their guy did it to us tonight.”
For video highlights and a postgame interview with Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry, click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hI37zLMrqUI
Both teams will face off again Sunday morning at 9 am. The winner of that game will advance to face either Rice or FAU at 1 pm in the Conference USA title game.
“I’m anxious to get back out here in the morning. You got one team that’s riding the high of emotion and another team that’s disappointed,” added Berry. “But tomorrow’s a new opportunity for both of us. We wipe the slate clean with a chance to get to the conference championship game that follows. That’s baseball, and we gotta flush it and move forward real quick.”
Berry’s Golden Eagles jumped out to a quick lead in Saturday’s game. Daniel Keating drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the first inning to give Southern Miss the early 1-0 lead. In the fourth, the Golden Eagles made it 2-0 off an RBI single from Matthew Guidry.
Charlotte (34-23) answered in the bottom of the frame, plating a run off a solo homer from Zack Smith. The Niners tied it an inning later with an RBI single from Reece Hampton.
Southern Miss retook the lead, 4-2, in the sixth when Gabe Montenegro picked up an RBI triple and later scored on a wild pitch.
Charlotte, again, cut that lead in half in the seventh. In the ninth, the Niners tied it, and then, with two runners on and only one out, won it off Bullock’s homer.
JC Keyes took the loss on the mound for Southern Miss. Keys, a former Oak Grove star, came out of the bullpen in relief for starter Walker Powell in the eighth inning. Powell struck out five Miners in his seven innings of work, allowing two earned runs and eight hits.
“I thought Walker really kind of gutted it out for us,” said Berry. “I didn’t think he had really great stuff, but they were able to scratch those single runs and he minimized some things. At the end of the day, we didn’t do enough to win a baseball game, and Charlotte did.”