When the Southern Miss baseball team enters survival mode, Kirk McCarty is the man you want on the mound.
The junior left-hander delivered a gutsy outing Thursday to lead the Golden Eagles to a 5-2 win over Louisiana Tech in an elimination game, keeping the team alive for one more day at MGM Park.
“I’m proud of Kirk’s performance and how he came out and competed,” McCarty said. “He gives you that every time out. He gives up two solo home runs, but he keeps a tough Tech team at bay.”
Southern Miss (45-12) will play the loser of Thursday night’s Charlotte-UTSA game in another elimination game at 6:30 p.m. Friday at MGM Park. The winner will advance to play at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Wednesday’s 9-2 loss to UTSA ended a 14-game winning streak for the Golden Eagles, but they again showed resilience on Thursday.
“The train’s already started. We just left the station,” USM redshirt freshman Matthew Guidry said. “We had to lose at some point. The last time we lost we started a 14-game win streak. You never know what can happen. This team is special. We’re just taking it day by day now.”
McCarty allowed two runs, both solo homers, on nine hits over seven innings to pick up his 10th win of the season in 15 starts. He struck out six and walked none.
“My fastball command was pretty bad,” McCarty said. “It was probably the worst it’s been all year. It’s easy to do that when you’re amped up.
“We kind of locked in with guys on base. That was a good feeling to leave guys out there. We’d take some momentum back after every hit.”
Louisiana Tech stranded nine runners in Thursday’s game.
After leaving 10 men on base Wednesday, the Golden Eagles finally managed to break through at the plate in the second inning on Thursday.
With two out and two men on, Guidry lifted a long drive to right center for a three-run home run and a 3-0 lead for the Golden Eagles.
It was the fourth home run of the season for Guidry, who hit in the eight spot of the order Thursday.
Guidry also had a leadoff single in the top of the ninth and eventually scored on a two-out RBI single by Cole Donaldson to give the team a 5-2 lead.
After sitting and watching Wednesday, Guidry was the Eagles’ best bat on Thursday with 2-for-4 effort. He scored twice and knocked in two runs.
Guidry shrugged off the suggestion that his team was struggling at the plate headed into Thursday’s game.
“That happens. It’s baseball,” he said. “If you say you’re struggling or you’re in a slump, you’ve already lost. We looked at that as a reality check.
“We just tried to come out here and get a win today.”
Louisiana Tech responded in the bottom of the third with Cody Daigle leading off with a solo home run to left center.
Dalton Skelton and Raphael Gladu followed with consecutive singles for Tech, but McCarty retired the next three men to avoid trouble and keep the USM lead at 4-1.
Marshall Boggs added a solo homer in the fourth inning to cut the USM lead to 4-2.
Locking it down
Sophomore right-hander Nick Sandlin worked two scoreless innings for USM to pick up his seventh save of the season. He overcome a walk and a hit batter in the ninth to close out the game.
“I’m proud of the way Nick Sandlin covered two innings,” Berry said. “They unloaded every lefty (batter) from here to the Gulf Coast.”
Louisiana Tech dropped to 36-20 and likely saw its postseason chances fade with an early exit from the C-USA tournament.
La. Tech starting pitcher Matt Miller gave up four runs on three hits in two innings to take the loss.
Raphael Gladu led Tech at the late with a 3-for-5 effort.
Southern Miss announced after the game that right-hander Taylor Braley will start Friday.