Former Gulfport star Daniel Keating joined in on the fun as Southern Miss thumped Southeastern Louisiana 11-3 Tuesday night at MGM Park.
Keating hit a two-run home run, his ninth of the season, over the left field wall as part of a six-run seventh inning to put the game to rest.
Keating said it was nice to go deep in front of family and friends.
“It is, for sure,” he said. “Especially since I've been struggling the last couple of weeks. It was good to get that one in.”
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The Golden Eagles improved to 41-12, tying the program's mark for wins in a regular season. The last time USM had that many wins in the regular season was in 2003 when it hosted the NCAA regional in Hattiesburg.
USM starting pitcher J.C. Keys, who struggled with his control in recent games, proved up to the challenge against a tough SLU lineup. Keys allowed one run on five hits in five innings, striking out two and walking one.
Keys improved to 3-3 and put himself in position to possibly make a start in next week's Conference USA Tournament in Biloxi.
“I knew this game was going to be big because it was going to play a role in building more confidence for the conference tournament,” Keys said.
USM will play the No. 8 seed at 4 p.m. on May 24 on the first day of the C-USA tournament in Biloxi. The tournament will be held May 24-28 at MGM Park.
With the win, USM sweeps its two regular season games this season in Biloxi after beating Nicholls State 16-8 on April 18.
Tuesday night's game should give USM a lift in the RPI rankings. The Lions entered the game with an RPI ranking of No. 27 while USM stood at No. 16.
“I think that was a big win for us in the mid-week,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “They were hoping for one there to build their case and drop their RPI. We're carrying a target on our back and have for a quite a while.”
Former Harrison Central standout Derrick Mount got the start for Southeastern Louisiana and lasted three innings, allowing one run on two hits. He struck out four and walked two, dropping his record to 1-2.
“I felt like it went really good. I had a little trouble, the strike zone was pretty tight, but I fought through some stuff,” Mount said. “It's one of my better outings this year even though I went three innings.
“It's great to come back and play close to your hometown, having all these fans you know out here. The adrenaline I got from family and friends was just unbelievable.”
Hunter Slater got USM on the board in the third inning with a two-out single to right field to bring home LeeMarcus Boyd from second.
USM broke through with a four-spot in the fifth inning, starting with an RBI double to right center by Dylan Burdeaux to bring Boyd around from first base.
Braley stepped to the plate with two out in the inning with Burdeaux on third and Slater, who walked, on first. Braley lifted a drive to right center for his 12th home run of the season to give USM a 5-1 lead.
Southeastern (34-17) put up a pair of runs in the seventh, but USM put up the six runs in the bottom of the inning to put the game out of reach.
Freshman Alex Nelms, another Gulfport product, pitched a scoreless ninth for USM.
Burdeaux had a 2-for-4 effort at the plate with a pair of doubles and an RBI. Boyd went 2-for-3 with three runs scored.
Southern Miss will travel to Texas-San Antonio to begin a three-game series to close out the regular season at 6 p.m. on Thursday.