HATTIESBURG -- Like it did Friday, the Southern Miss baseball team suffered through one bad inning on Saturday. But this time, the Golden Eagles won the game.
On Senior Day at Pete Taylor Park, seniors like Nick Dawson, Tim Lynch, Dylan Burdeaux and especially relief pitcher Nick Johnson had their day in the sun, leading USM to a 7-3 Conference USA victory over Louisiana Tech.
"We had some really big at-bats, especially out of our seniors," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "I'm just proud of our guys. (Louisiana) Tech is a very good ball club. They had seven straight wins coming into this game today."
Of course, it wasn't all seniors that helped USM improve to 35-15 overall and 19-7 in Conference USA. Sophomore pitcher Kirk McCarty (6-0) threw the first six innings, all very well except in the second when the Bulldogs used three hit batters, a walk and a single to score three runs and go ahead 3-0. McCarty had hit only seven batters in 67 1/3 innings going into Saturday's game.
"Part of their game is to get up on the plate, to try to get hit by pitches to get things going," Berry said. "Certainly, we're not going to steer away from it. That's part of our plate, too. Whether they were leaning in or not I don't know, but the umpire didn't see it. We had to overcome it and we did."
McCarty gave up seven hits and one walk and struck out three. Most of his outs were fly outs on a day when no wind was blowing.
Most impressively, McCarty got past the crazy second inning and the Golden Eagles are now 13-0 in games that he has started on the mound.
The way he wrangled out of the second-inning jam, unlike when Tech scored five runs in one inning on Friday, was amazing.
"Not a fun inning, not an ideal inning," the soph from Oak Grove said. "Emotions ran high. It was intense. They got in there and wore some balls off their elbow, off their foot. They did what they could to get on base so credit to them for not getting out of the way. Do I think it was a strike? Absolutely. But that's their game plan so we've got to make an adjustment to that and we did that as the game went on."
The good news for USM is that it came back with a run in the bottom of the second inning when Chase Scott doubled, moved to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch.
The the Eagles went ahead 4-3 in the third, when Dawson doubled in a run and Lynch and Hunter Slater each singled in a run. Dawson homered in the sixth to make it 5-3.
McCarty praised Johnson, who came to the mound in relief with two on and no out in the seventh inning and shut down the Bulldogs with a fly out and two strikeouts. Johnson, who got his second save of the season, spoke highly of McCarty, too.
"Kirk battled his tail off so you've got to pick up your brother after he's battled like that," Johnson said. "It's just an awesome feeling to come in and pick up a brother like that.
"We had a two-run lead and could have settled for that. But it's a whole lot easier with a four-run lead."
And that's what Southern Miss had in the eighth when Dawson doubled and scored on a Burdeaux single and Burdeaux scored on a sacrifice fly by Jake Sandlin.
"It was huge that we came out ready to play today," Dawson said. "We've got to come out ready to play (Sunday) and try to win the series at home."
Dawson finished with three hits and Burdeaux, Lynch and Hunter Slater each had two.
Sunday's game will begin at 1 p.m.
Louisiana Tech fell to 34-15 and 16-10.
Conference USA leader Rice was trailing Florida Atlantic 3-1 in the fifth inning when bad weather postponed the game until Sunday, so Rice is a half-game up on USM.