It was not a good day for the home team at Pete Taylor Park.
A season high four errors. One runner out trying to score on a wild pitch. A bobble on what could have been a double play. A throw in the dirt on what should have been a pickoff at first base. Nine pitchers, who gave up 13 hits and three home runs.
Those things, along with a good performance by FIU’s 6-foot-2, 145-pound undefeated freshman pitcher Nick McDonald, led to Southern Miss’ 10-4 baseball loss to the Panthers on Sunday.
“We missed on a lot of opportunities,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “We left nine guys on. We never got any stops. After we scored, they came right back and scored. We didn’t run the bases well. We didn’t play ‘catch’ well. We missed on a couple opportunities to turn double plays.
“You’ve got to play better than that to win a game at this level.”
The good news for Southern Miss: the Golden Eagles (26-7, 10-2) stay in first place in C-USA because both Florida Atlantic and Old Dominion, each a half-game behind USM in the standings, both lost Sunday. They are 9-3.
The Eagles were going for their fifth weekend series sweep of the season and their seventh straight Sunday victory. Didn’t happen. Not the way Southern Miss played. And not the way FIU played.
T.C. Escarra hit two solo home runs and a single to lead the FIU (17-14, 6-6) charge. And McDonald (5-0) looked like anything other than a stringbean freshman. He gave up six hits and three runs in 6.0 innings pitched, and struck out seven.
“I think he threw more balls for strikes than he threw strikes,” Southern Miss freshman center fielder Matt Wallner said. “We chased everything.”
For USM, Wallner hit his 11th home run of the season and Dylan Burdeaux and Storme Cooper each hit two singles for Southern Miss, which will host Ole Miss at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
FIU scored at least one run in the second through the eighth innings. J.C. Keys started on the mound for the Golden Eagles and lasted four innings. Then came Sean Tweedy, Trent Driver, Austin Millet, Stevie Powers, Alex Nelms, Cody Carroll, Jake Davis and Calder Mikell. There were no three up, three down innings posted by USM pitchers.
In the seventh, with the bases loaded by FIU, Wallner tracked down a long fly ball to center field. Two runners, which were on third and second, apparently tagged and scored on the play, but USM appealed to second and the runner was called out.
“With the wind today (blowing toward left field), I knew I had to get on my horse and get back,” Wallner said. “When I looked up, it was right in the sun so I had to double clutch it to get it back. I didn’t see (the runner at second) leave, but when I looked up, it looked like he was 10 feet away from third base. He might be that fast, but that’s pretty fast to me.”
After Tuesday’s home game against Ole Miss, the Eagles will play a weekend series at Rice.
But they won’t forget the finale against FIU.
“It’s the first one we’ve had all year where everyone had a lull,” Wallner said. “We didn’t have the energy. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and move on.”