Southern Miss

Southern Miss provides a wild walk-off in season opener. ‘It’s just a culture thing.’

It’s a new season, but the same old result for the Southern Miss baseball team.

Junior second baseman Matthew Guidry ripped a two-out, RBI single to right field in the bottom of the 10th to hand the Golden Eagles a 7-6 victory over Purdue in the season opener at Pete Taylor Park.

Guidry was mobbed by teammates as he rounded first base in a scene that USM baseball fans have become familiar with as the team continues to find ways late to pull out tight victories in Hattiesburg.

“It’s just a culture thing — Pete Taylor Magic,” Guidry said.

When Guidry stepped to the plate in the 10th with men on second and third, USM head coach Scott Berry had a good feeling that the sweet-swinging junior would come through.

“That guy, he’s our go-to guy,” Berry said. “I’ve watched him over his career and he thrives in those situations. He wants to be the guy. That’s why he’s one of our leaders, one of our captains because he’s not afraid to step out in front in that situation.”

The man who scored on Guidry’s base hit was junior pitcher/outfielder Brant Blaylock, who homered over the right field wall in the eighth to cut the Purdue lead to 6-5.

In the ninth, the Eagles caught a break when Purdue center fielder Skyler Hunter failed to pull in a drive off the bat of USM senior first baseman Hunter Slater. The miscue allowed Fred Franklin to race home from second and tie the game at 6-6.

“I thought he caught it. I was kind of disappointed,” Slater said. “It’s a good heads up play by Freddie to advance.”

Slater finished 2-of-3 at the plate, hitting a solo homer and knocking in a pair of runs as he settles into the three-hole in the lineup.

Senior right-hander Mason Strickland picked up the win in relief, tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He gave up no runs on two hits with one walk.

USM’s starting pitcher, Walker Powell, lasted 4 innings, giving up one earned run on five hits. The 6-foot-7 Arkansas native struck out four and walked one.

Purdue, which committed three errors, wasted a 4-for-4 night from Owen Jansen, who scored once and knocked in one run.

Right-hander Austin Peterson (0-1) took the loss after lasting 2/3 of an inning. He gave up one run on two hits.

Sunday’s Game 3 has been moved up from 1 p.m. to 10:30 a.m. due to the expectation of rain that afternoon.

Wallner update

USM junior Matt Wallner had a 1-for-4 night as the designated hitter Friday night after recently suffering a strained forearm.

Berry planned on using Wallner in right field and as a starting pitcher entering the season, but he said Friday that he wants to be cautious with the MLB prospect.

“We’re just going to take that day by day,” Berry said. “I’m not going to push it. The young man has got a great future ahead of him. He’s got a long season and he’s going to play in for us on the mound. I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow. Today, he and I discussed the option of either playing right or DH. I just felt like after talking with him, I felt like it was in his best interest and ours that he sit that out and let that strain take care of itself.”

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.
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