Mr. Clutch did it again for Southern Miss’ baseball team.
Storme Cooper drew a bases-loaded, walk-off base-on-balls with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night as the Golden Eagles slipped past Tulane 2-1 at Pete Taylor Park.
It was the second time in six games the sophomore infielder had given the Golden Eagles a victory in their final at-bat. He had a two-out, game-ending single in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave Southern Miss an 8-7 win over Northeastern University on Feb. 19.
“It’s not quite as exciting,” Cooper said of a walk-off walk. “I wanted to get a hit, but I’ll take it.
“It’s all about getting a win.”
The Golden Eagles (7-1) snapped a two-game losing streak against the Green Wave (1-7) while logging their 13th consecutive victory at Taylor Park, dating to last season. Coming into the game, Southern Miss had been tied with Stanford for the longest home winning streaks among Division I programs with 12 straight wins.
The start to Wednesday’s game was delayed 91 minutes by rain and lightning.
“I was real proud of how our guys competed at the end on a tough night,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “It was a delayed game, which kind of takes you out of your routine, but both teams had to deal with it.
“Overall, it was a good team win.”
Southern Miss took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning when third baseman Tracy Hadley doubled, took third base on a grounder to the right side and scored on first baseman’s Dylan Burdeaux’s sacrifice fly.
The Golden Eagles dodged trouble throughout, with Tulane stranding 10 runners through the first seven innings, including two in each of five innings.
But in the top of the eighth inning, a double error on a sharply-hit grounder by Tulane second baseman Jake Willsey left runners on second base and third base, and with one out, center fielder Grant Brown tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
Southern Miss threatened in the bottom of the inning. Left fielder Hunter Slater and pitcher/designated hitter opened with singles, with Cooper pinch-running for Braley.
After both moved up on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Cole Donaldson, center fielder Matt Wallner was intentionally walked to load the bases. But Casey Maack bounced into an inning-ending double play against Tulane reliever Ted Andrews.
Nick Sandlin (2-0), who allowed only one hit and one unearned run in 2 1/3 innings, worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, and after Andrews got two quick outs to start the bottom on the inning, extra innings loomed.
But Burdeaux coaxed a nine-pitch walk, and when right fielder Mason Irby chopped a ball just to the right of the mound that Andrews (0-2) couldn’t field cleanly, the Golden Eagles had runners at first and second.
Slater was hit by Andrews’ first pitch to load the bases, and Cooper, who took Braley’s place as cleanup, hitter, fell behind 0-1, then took three straight balls to run the count to 3-1.
Andrews followed with a strike, and Cooper fouled off a full-count offering to stay alive. When Andrews’ final pitch came in high, Cooper jogged to first as Burdeaux jogged in with the game-winning run.
“It was different,” Burdeaux said. “The pitchers had kind of been thanking us this season, but (Wednesday), it was the hitters thanking them.”
Braley allowed just three hits over four innings in his second start, and four relief pitchers allowed just four hits and no earned runs over the final five innings, with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Burdeaux, who had two singles, and Slater, who hit a single to lead off the eighth inning, extended their hitting streaks to eight games. Braley also had two hits Wednesday.
Tulane leadoff man Grant Witherspoon had three hits, while Brown had two singles.