The Southern Miss baseball team pummeled Nicholls State 16-8 behind a season-high 20 hits Tuesday night at MGM Park.
Every Golden Eagle starter got in on the fun with at least one hit before the fourth inning arrived. Junior slugger Taylor Braley was the only starter without an RBI; eight USM players had multiple hits.
The Golden Eagles (29-9) have again hit their stride at the plate, scoring 52 runs over the last four games.
“I’m real proud of our guys with how we came in here midweek coming off a tough road trip to Rice with one day’s rest,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “It seemed like everything we hit we squared up.”
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A Coast product had a hand in the first Southern Miss win at MGM Park as Gulfport’s Alex Nelms earned the first start of his college career. He lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on nine hits. He struck out two and walked none before a crowd of 1,521.
“I was proud of him,” Berry said. “He’s a freshman. We talked a little bit on the bench about him developing some other pitches and particularly the change-up to help with the fastball. I’ve seen him better than he was tonight and he’ll admit to that, but the main thing is he got that first start under his belt. He’s a winner and he’ll learn from this tonight. He’ll take those things that he’s got to do to get better and work on them to get better.”
When Nelms left the mound with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, the USM fans behind the first-base dugout gave him a standing ovation.
“It’s a different feeling than relieving,” he said. “I definitely tried to get my old high school routine back. It’s fine wherever he wants me to pitch. It was good to get my feet wet in the starting role.”
Nelms received 15 runs of support from the USM batters while he was in the game.
“This offense is insane,” he said. “I love it because you can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Southern Miss blew open the game in the third inning with 10 runs on nine hits, marking the second time this season they’ve put double digits on the board in a single inning; they had scored 11 against Evansville on Feb. 26 in Hattiesburg.
Mason Irby, a junior right fielder, had the biggest knock of the inning with a bases-loaded triple to bring home all three runs and give the Golden Eagles a 9-3 lead.
“I wasn’t planning on going for a triple, but I heard (assistant Chad Caillet) going ‘Three! Three! Three,’” Irby said. “I thought I guess I’ve got to at least try it.”
USM also put up five runs in the first inning after coming up with six consecutive singles to start the game.
Irby, who went to 3-for-5 with three RBIs, has proven dangerous in the two-hole for the Golden Eagles.
“Hitting is contagious and that’s what happened in the first inning,” Irby said.
USM senior first baseman Dylan Burdeaux finished 2-for-5, extending his career-long hit streak to 15 games. In those 15 games, he has 13 multiple-hit contests.
USM junior shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd finished 1-for-5 with three RBIs. Designated hitter Jake Viaene went 3-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored and an RBI.
Hunter Stevens (1-0) picked up the win for USM, giving up no earned runs on two hits in 2 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Starter Cayden Hatcher took the loss for Nicholls State (20-19), giving up seven runs on nine hits in two innings.
A pair of Coast products picked up late hits. Pascagoula’s Tracey Hadley had a double in the eighth inning for USM and Gulfport’s Justin Holt had an infield single in the ninth for Nicholls.
Southern Miss (29-9) will travel to Tulane (18-18) for another midweek contest before hosting Old Dominion starting at 6 p.m. Friday in a crucial Conference USA series.
USM is in first place in C-USA with a 12-3 mark. ODU enters the series in third place with a league record of 10-5.