The play may as well be called “The Flip” in Southern Miss lore.
The host Golden Eagles had started to chip away at Illinois-Chicago’s five-run lead but still had plenty of work to do Friday afternoon at Pete Taylor Park.
Trailing 6-4 in the sixth, USM brought in reliever Hayden Roberts. After a quick strikeout to open the frame, UIC put runners on the corners with a hit batter and single through the right side.
UIC opted to attempt a squeeze bunt with its three-hole hitter, shortstop Cody Bohanek.
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Roberts charged toward the plate and in one fluid motion flipped the bouncing ball with his glove to Cole Donaldson. The flip was perfect, allowing the USM catcher to apply the tag just as Mickey McDonald slid past for the out.
Roberts struck out Rob Calabrese looking in the next at-bat to close out the frame.
USM went on to plate four runs in the bottom of the inning, eventually holding on to win 8-7.
“Cole made a great play. He’s the one who needs to be recognized on that because that was a tough ball to handle,” Roberts said. “When I got it out of my glove I knew I had a good chance. We got him in time — it was just Cole handling it and he did.”
Southern Miss junior left-hander Kirk McCarty registered his 100th strikeout of the season to begin the fourth inning on Friday.
McCarty struck out UIC cleanup hitter Rob Calabrese for the first out of the fourth inning for his 100th of the season.
The former Oak Grove star is the first USM pitcher to strikeout 100 batters since Shea Douglas did it in 2002.
Return to Hattiesburg
This is not UIC coach Mike Dee’s first visit to Hattiesburg.
He was the head coach at Minnesota in 1997 when the Golden Gophers played USM at Pete Taylor Park and his first visit to “The Pete” left an impression.
“There will be some interesting stuff going on down in the right field corner,” Dee said prior to Friday’s game. “I warned our guys about that.”
Dee was asked what exactly the interesting stuff was that he witnessed in 1997.
“As I recall, they had a lot of advice for our guys,” he answered.
Southern Miss landed a pair of players on the CoSIDA Academic All-American team on Friday.
McCarty is on the second team with a 4.00 GPA in accounting. Sophomore closer Nick Sandlin made the third team with a 4.00 GPA in construction engineering technology.
Walk me home
The Southern Miss lineup drew seven walks on Friday, giving the Golden Eagles six walks or more in eight of the last 12 games.
Junior third baseman Taylor Braley drew two walks Friday, pushing his USM record total to 61 this season.