Southern Miss

Southern Miss drops rare C-USA Baseball series

Southern Miss shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd fields a ground ball against Old Dominion Saturday in Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd fields a ground ball against Old Dominion Saturday in Hattiesburg.

Well, it happened. For the first time this season, the Southern Miss baseball team lost a Conference USA series.

Old Dominion pounded the Golden Eagles 9-2 at Pete Taylor Park on Sunday to win two games in the three-game weekend series. Southern Miss won its first five league series this season.

USM stays in first place in C-USA with a 13-5 record, but Charlotte, which swept Middle Tennessee State this weekend, and Old Dominion, also a contender for an NCAA tournament berth, is right behind at 12-6.

“Old Dominion played very well over the weekend, outside of Friday,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “We did not match their intensity in any phase of the game.

“I felt like they sensed they had to knock off the No. 1 team in the conference, the No. 16 team (in nationally), which plays so big in RPI. We didn’t have an answer for their hitters. They put some really good swings on it and they found the holes when they needed it.”

Sunday’s loss was no fluke. Even though the Eagles had some loud outs, the visiting Monarchs banged out 18 hits, compared to six for USM. It was the most hits given up by Southern Miss in a game this season. And Old Dominion had 13 hits on Saturday. For the three-game series, the visitors totaled 37 hits.

“We’re leaving the ball up in the zone,” losing pitcher Taylor Braley (3-2) said. “Just flattening out.”

ODU’s first batter of the game, Kyle Battle, singled and scored and the deeper the game went, the more the Monarchs were in command.

ODU (29-12, 12-6) scored the one run in the first inning, then Braley didn’t give up any more runs untiil the fifth, when three more Monarch runs crossed the plate on a couple of singles, a hit batsman and a two-run double by Zach Rutherford.

Southern Miss scored a run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Tracy Hadley and Storme Cooper each walked and LeeMarcus Boyd singled in Hadley.

USM made it 4-2 in the sixth when freshman Matt Wallner hit his 11th double of the season and scored on a double by Cole Donaldson.

But the Monarchs weren’t done. They scored two in the seventh and three in the eighth and got out of town on a high note.

For Southern Miss, which has lost seven out of its last 13 games, the note is not so high.

“We’re not playing real well,” Berry said. “It’s not anything mechanical or fundamental that you fix, it’s all mental. It’s about attitude.

“You can go back to the Ole Miss game at Trustmark (Park in Pearl on April 4) where late in the game, we kind of stumbled. Ever since then, we’re 6-7 over the last 13 games. That’s below .500 baseball, which is not going to get you much. Up to that point, we had been playing really good baseball. We need to grow up and compete when things don’t go in our favor.”

Catcher Cole Donaldson was the only Golden Eagle with more than one hit on Sunday. He had two singles.

Old Dominion’s first four batters in the order wound up with 12 hits off five USM pitchers, led by Battle with four.

Braley, who had reached base in all 40 of the games he has played in this year, did not get on base Sunday.

USM, which has now lost three of its past four games, will play at South Alabama at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and will play next weekend at Middle Tennessee.