HATTIESBURG-- In the bottom of the sixth inning Friday night at Taylor Park, Southern Miss had seemed to grab a modicum of momentum by scoring a run to tie a tightly-contested game with visiting Louisiana Tech.
The scales shifted swiftly.
The Bulldogs broke a 2-2 tie by scoring five runs with two outs in the top of the seventh inning and then held on to hand the Golden Eagles a 7-5 Conference USA loss before 3,670 at Pete Taylor Park.
"In all honesty, that was the bottom line," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "We just couldn't put them away in that inning. Giving up five runs, it was crucial."
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No. 16 Southern Miss (34-15, 18-7 C-USA) rallied, scoring three times in the eighth inning on a single by center fielder Jake Sandlin, a double by first baseman Tim Lynch and a single by designated hitter Daniel Keating.
The Golden Eagles had two men on with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before J.D. Perry snagged Sandlin's shallow fly against the bullpen wall in left to end the game.
"We tried to get ourselves back in it," Berry said.
The loss marked the first time the Golden Eagles dropped a series opener at home this season and was only the fourth loss at Pete Taylor Park.
The Golden Eagles entered the game tied atop the conference standings with No. 14 Rice, whose Friday night series opener with Florida Atlantic was delayed at the start by weather.
Coming into the evening, Florida Atlantic was one game back of the co-leaders, with Marshall two games back and Louisiana Tech three games out.
Regardless of the Rice-Florida Atlantic outcome, the Southern Miss loss and wins by Marshall and Tech (34-14, 16-9) further clogged the top of the standings with five conference games left to play over the next two weekends.
"We've got to come back and even the series," Berry said. "It's the first time we've lost at home on a Friday, and that's something that we have not been used to.
"It's got to sit bad with us, and Saturday, we've got to come back. This is our house, and we need to do it tomorrow."
The Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning off Southern Miss starter Mason Walley when first baseman Marshall Boggs cracked his second home run of the season, a two-run shot over the left-field fence.
Center fielder Dylan Burdeaux pulled the Golden Eagles within 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning off left-handed starter Phil Diehl, sending his 10th homer run of the season over the wall in left-center with two outs.
Burdeaux's long ball tied him with injured third baseman Taylor Braley for the team lead in home runs and gave the Golden Eagles two players with at least 10 homers in the same season since 2009, when Bo Davis hit 14 and Joey Archer 10.
Southern Miss tied the game in the bottom of the sixth when shortstop Nick Dawson walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Sandlin's opposite-field double down the left-field line.
But the Bulldogs quickly broke the tie.
With one out, reliever Jake Winston (6-1) gave up singles to center fielder Bryce Stark and left fielder Raphael Gladu.
After Winston struck out shortstop Chandler Hall, he was lifted in favor of a left-hander versus left-hander match-up, with Luke Lowery entering from the bullpen to face second baseman Jordan Washam.
Washam won, skying a 1-2 pitch to the wall in left-center field to score Stark and Gladu for a 4-2 lead. The next batter, left-handed hitting third baseman Chase Lunceford, then sent a 2-2 pitch off Lowery over the wall in right-center to put the Bulldogs up 6-2.
Lowery wrapped a four-batter appearance by giving up a single to designated hitter Jonathan Washam and hitting right fielder Taylor Love with a pitch. Jordan Washam scored on the front end of a double steal when second baseman Chase Scott got to the bag late, allowing catcher Chuckie Robinson's throw to go awry.
The Golden Eagles finally got to reliever Nate Harris (4-2) in the eighth inning. Harris had minimized the damage in the sixth, getting the final two outs in that inning. He had retired six consecutive batters before hitting Burdeaux with a pitch to start Southern Miss' eighth inning.
Tech closer Adam Atkins got the final out in the eighth and then pitched out of the ninth-inning jam to pick up his ninth save of the season and help the Bulldogs to their seventh consecutive victory.
Boggs, Lunceford and the Washams each had two of Tech's 11 hits. Keating (three), Sandlin (two) and Burdeaux (two) accounted for seven of Southern Miss' nine hits.