TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A day after getting trounced 14-2 by Southern Miss, the South Alabama baseball team found a way Saturday to stay alive in the Tallahassee Regional.
Junior right-hander Randy Bell threw a complete game in a 6-3 victory over Alabama State in an elimination game Saturday at Dick Howser Stadium. He proved very efficient in his nine-inning outing, striking out eight and walking none on only 100 pitches. He allowed three runs on seven hits and held the Hornets scoreless in the final five innings of the game.
USA (41-21) will play the loser of Saturday night's Southern Miss-Florida State game in an elimination contest at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
"Today was just a matter of our players finding a way to win a ball game," USA coach Mark Calvi said. "It didn't look good early. It could have been easy to mope and sulk and pout after getting it handed to us pretty good yesterday by a very good Southern Miss team. That's not who our team is, who our guys are. They came out and were relentless in their pursuit of trying to win a ballgame today."
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Bell, who improved to 7-1, has been one of USA's more durable pitchers this season and Saturday's outing was his fifth complete game of the season.
"It was just throwing strikes and going after them," Bell said of his game plan. "Early on, they got some good swings on some mistakes on my part. I knew if I could limit the mistakes, I could be in control of the game. The game plan was just going after them."
South Alabama worked past its recent struggles at the plate to break through late, overcoming a 3-2 deficit with a run in the seventh and three more in the eighth.
USA's 2-3-4 batters of Cole Billingsley, Travis Swaggerty and Danny Martinez combined to go 8-for-12.
Martinez tied the game at 3-3 with a double in the seventh to bring home Swaggerty, who tripled to begin the inning.
It was Billingsley's two-run double to center with one out in the bottom of the eighth that gave the Jaguars their first lead of the game at 5-3.
USA tacked on one more run in the eighth when Billingley scored from third on a throwing error by Ray Hernandez at third base as he tried to make a play on Swaggerty's grounder with one out in the inning.
Swaggerty, who tied his career high with three hits in a 3-for-4 effort, was relieved to see his team break through at the plate after dealing with offensive woes late in the season.
"It was awesome," Swaggerty said. "It's a credit to Randy. When he pitches like that, all we want to do is score a bunch of runs for him. We grinded and battled just like he did in the box. We got some runs across and that was huge for us. We knew he was gonna finish it out."
All three of ASU's runs came via the home run with Eriq White hitting a two-run home run in the second inning, his third of the season, and Ray Hernandez hitting a solo shot in the fourth for his 16th homer.
South Alabama got on the board in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Martinez to score Drew LaBounty, who led the inning off with a single, to cut the Hornets' lead to 2-1.
Alabama State pushed its lead 3-1 on the fourth-inning homer by Hernandez, but USA answered in the bottom of the inning with another sacrifice fly RBI, this time by LaBounty to plate Jared Barnes, who doubled to lead off the inning.
Junior right-hander Angel Alicea threw well for Alabama State in a seven-inning start. He allowed three runs on 10 hits in seven innings, striking out five and walking three.
Tyler Howe (10-3) took the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits in one inning out of the bullpen.
Alabama State, which went undefeated against SWAC competition, finished with a 38-17 record.
Calvi said he wasn't sure who he would throw on Sunday.
"I'll meet tonight with the coaches," he said. "Whoever it is will be somebody that's been there before and has done a great job for us this year. We've had four starters that have done well for this program."
Hunter Soleymani (4-3, 3.71) and Austin Bembnowski (6-4, 3.72), a pair of senior right-handers, are likely the top options for USA on Sunday.