The Southern Miss baseball team is again atop Conference USA by itself.
The Golden Eagles throttled Rice 17-6 Sunday on 18 hits, including four home runs, to clinch the conference series in Houston.
USM (28-9, 12-3) will next play at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday in a non-conference game against Nicholls State at MGM Park in Biloxi.
USM holds a one-game lead on Florida Atlantic in the C-USA standings. FAU entered the day tied with USM in first place, but the Owls (24-10-1, 11-4) fell 7-0 to Marshall on Sunday.
Third-place Old Dominion (26-11, 10-5) also lost on Sunday, dropping a 7-3 decision to Louisiana Tech in Norfolk, Virginia.
Gulfport’s Daniel Keating hit his seventh home run of the season on Sunday for USM. Taylor Braley, Cole Donaldson and Matthew Guidry also provided homers for the Golden Eagles.
Braley had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-5 with five RBIs. His former Oak Grove High School teammate, Matthew Guidry, finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs, all on a third-inning grand slam.
Rice jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first inning when USM starting pitcher J.C. Keys left the inning without retiring a batter. Keys allowed four runs on two hits, walking two Owls.
USM head coach Scott Berry made the quick call to the bullpen in, putting junior right-hander Colt Smith on the mound in the first inning. Smith delivered one of his best performances of the season, giving up one earned run on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two as he improved to 2-0.
Nick Sandlin again proved effective out of the bullpen, throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked three and struck out six.
Sean Tweedy pitched the final inning, giving up one earned run on two hits.
Starting pitcher Glenn Otto took the loss for Rice (13-25, 4-11), allowing five earned runs on five hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Who: Southern Miss vs. Nicholls State
When: 7:05 p.m., Tuesday
Where: MGM Park, Biloxi
Radio: WPMO-1580 AM