The Southern Miss baseball team opened its Conference USA baseball series by splitting a pair of extra-inning games with Marshall Friday evening at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field, winning the first contest 5-3, before dropping the nightcap 8-7.
The two teams are scheduled to play at 2 p.m., today to complete the series. Should rain postpone that contest, the final game will take place Sunday at 11 a.m.
The Golden Eagles had a nine-game winning streak snapped in the second game and are now 19-5 overall and 4-1 in C-USA play, while Marshall holds a 11-9 and 3-2 record.
Shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd’s first career home run as a Golden Eagle provided Southern Miss’ fourth walk-off victory of the year in the opening game, by downing Marshall 5-3 in 11 innings.
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Boyd, who hit a walk-off single in a March 14 victory over Columbia, reached out to lash an 0-2 pitch over the left-field wall.
All five of USM’s runs came via home run, including two solo shots by center fielder Matt Wallner and a solo homer by designated hitter Daniel Keating.
Nick Sandlin (5-0) picked up the win with a season-long 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. He allowed just one hit, while walking two and striking out a career-high seven.
He worked out of jam in the eighth inning when the Thundering Herd loaded the bases with one out on a walk, error and single. Sandlin caught pinch hitter Andrew Zban looking at strike three and then got right fielder Cory Garrastazu to foul out to end the threat.
Southern Miss loaded the bases in both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not score.
Herd Reliever Matt Reed faced one batter in the eighth and got an inning-ending double play, then worked around Dylan Burdeaux’s single and two walks in the ninth to send the game into extra innings.
In the top of the 11th inning, Sandlin got two strikeouts and then after a walk to Garrastazu, picked him off to end the inning.
Reed (3-2) walked Southern Miss right fielder Mason Irby on five pitches to open the bottom of the inning, and then after Boyd dropped two bunt attempts foul, could only turn and watch as Boyd’s drive easily cleared the wall in left.
Of Southern Miss’ four walk-off wins, Boyd has two, game-winning hits, while second baseman Storme Cooper has accounted for the other two with a game-winning single against Northeastern University on Feb. 19 and a bases-loaded walk against Tulane on March 1.
Both the Golden Eagles and the Herd got solid outings from their starting pitchers.
USM left-hander Kirk McCarty, who retired the first 10 batters he faced, allowed three runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. He did not walk a batter, while striking out five.
Marshall left-hander Joshua Shapiro also allowed three runs on eight hits over seven innings. He walked one, while striking out six.
The Golden Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Keating’s second home run of the season, but
Sam Finfer’s two-run homer in the fourth inning gave the Herd a 2-1 lead.
Wallner tied the game when he led off the bottom of the fourth inning with his fifth home run of the season.
Marshall went back ahead 3-2 in the sixth inning on Shane Hanon’s two-out, run-scoring single, but Wallner tied the game again with a one-out, moonshot over the center-field wall in the bottom of the sixth.
Wallner, Irby, Keating and second baseman Casey Maack each had two of the Golden Eagles’ 11 hits. Southern Miss has had 10 hits or more in every conference game this season. Finfer, Hanon and Garrastazu each had two hits for Marshall.
In the second game, USM scored on Boyd’s double and a sacrifice fly by Irby to grab a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Marshall quickly tied it a wild pitch and a run-scoring single by Reynaldo Pastrana in the second, but Taylor Braley led off the third with a solo homer and Wallner hit his third solo shot of the day in the fifth to give Southern Miss a 4-2 lead.
Marshall got a run closer on Tommy Lane’s single in the seventh, but the Golden Eagles grabbed their biggest lead of the doubleheader with a three-run eighth inning, taking a 6-3 lead.
But the Herd answered with four runs, roughing up Wallner, who had come into the game in relief to close out the seventh inning. The big hit: a three-run home run by Bill Sager, his first homer of the season.
Southern Miss tied the game 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth, with Casey Maack’s single driving in Wallner, but Finfer’s clout off USM reliever Austin MIllet (0-1) bumped Marshall back ahead.
The Golden Eagles had a chance in the 11th, when Boyd led off with a big hopper that third baseman Will Ray threw away at first, sending Boyd to second.
With Dylan Burdeaux at the plate, Boyd moved to third base on a wild pitch. But Burdeaux hit a screaming line drive back to reliever Tyler Ratliff (1-0) for the first out, Irby flied to shallow center for the second and Hunter Slater struck out on three pitches to end the game.
Finfer had two hits in each game, all for extra bases (two doubles, two home runs), with three RBI and three runs scored.
Wallner hit three home runs, scored four runs, was intentionally walked twice and hit by pitches twice in the twinbill.