College Sports

Nicholls State rallies to spoil Long's homecoming

 Ryne Long, South Alabama

BILOXI -- Ryne Long deserved a better outcome Wednesday.

South Alabama coach Mark Calvi said as much after the senior right-hander posted career night only to see Nicholls State rally late and win 5-4 on a walk-off error at MGM Park.

The former East Central and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout left the game with two on and two out in the seventh and the Jaguars (18-7) leading 4-1. Pinch hitter Brandon Harigel smashed a two-run single through the left side to pull the Colonels (11-15) within one.

After the Jaguars went scoreless in the top of the ninth, Nicholls State again loaded the bases in the final frame. Down to their final out, Colonels reserve catcher Alex Tucker hit routine grounder to second base. South Alabama's Adam Wolfe bobbled the ball -- allowing the tying run to score -- and then threw off the mark to first base to push the go-ahead run across the plate.

"We had some really nice pinch hits off the bench. We've been trying to grind through some things the last couple of weeks with some injuries," Nicholls State coach Seth Thibodeaux said. "To see our guys off the bench come in, do a few things and never give in was big for us. I'm proud of our guys."

Prior to the late rally, Long seemed dialed in. A starter in 2015, Long had been used exclusively in relief this season, posting a 0.85 ERA in 11 innings spread over four appearances.

Wednesday, Long showed why he was previously a weekend starter, striking out a career-high six.

"He battled and should have won that ball game," Calvi said. "He did an excellent job tonight. I'm super pleased with the way he threw the baseball."

The final score ruined what was otherwise a nice homecoming for Long.

"The main objective was to win the game," Long said. "It's cool to play in front of people who have watched you play your whole life, but at the end of the day the whole objective is to come in and win a baseball game."

Long earned a no decision, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk in a career-long 7 2/3 innings.

Even with the strong performance, Long downplayed his night.

"I was all right. The eighth inning got away from us and ultimately that's what hurt us. You have to finish every inning you start and I didn't do that so that's on me," he said. "It really doesn't matter if I struck out 15. If we don't win, then we don't win. All that stuff is just stats on a piece of paper.

"That doesn't matter to us, we just want to win baseball games."

USA opened the scoring in the first, scoring leadoff hitter Travis Swaggerty on a Danny Martinez ground out. The Colonels tied the game in the fourth on a ground out by Trevor Flynn that scored Alex Shermer.

The Jaguars added runs in the sixth and seventh innings on a double by Jared Barnes and a single up the middle by Drew LaBounty.

Coast connection

George County product Daniel Goff started for the Colonels, allowing one run on five hits and a walk in three innings. He also struck out one in the no decision.

Colonels teammate and former Gulfport standout Justin Holt made the most of his return to the Coast, going 2-for-5 in front of an announced crowd of 540.

Statistically speaking

USA's Cole Billingsley had a game-high three hits. Swaggerty and Carter Perkins also had two hits for the Jaguars. Ethan Valdez, Holt led Nicholls State with two hits apiece.

Shane McKinley was saddled with the loss, allowing two unearned runs in one inning of work. Zach Thiac earned the win in relief, throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Next up

Nicholls State travels to Southeastern Louisiana this weekend in a return to Southland Conference action.

USA is set to host Sun Belt Conference foe Louisiana-Monroe at Stanky Field for a three-game set.