A bad week got worse Sunday for the Southern Miss baseball team.
The Golden Eagles had lost five straight games but Sunday, they led Gonzaga 7-1 after 3 1/2 innings at Pete Taylor Park due to a grand slam by Erick Hoard and a two-run home run by Matt Guidry.
But a half inning later, a storm moved into the Hattiesburg area, the game was canceled and because it didn’t go five innings, the 7-1 lead goes out the window. No game. No grand slam. No two-run homer. Most importantly, no win.
“When it rains, it pours,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said in one of the most apt quotes of the sports year.
The Eagles (4-5) will host Southern (La.) at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“It was a tough situation today,” Berry said. “We felt like we really had some momentum moving through this game and had done some things well after a tough day (Saturday in a doubleheader loss to Gonzaga). We got some timely hits in big situations that have eluded us here of late. So even though the game got canceled, I feel we have some positives moving into the next one.”
Southern Miss has a team batting average of .246 though nine games while its opponents are hitting .263. For the most part, the pitching has been decent, a 3.70 earned run average, while the opposition has a 4.08 ERA.
“We talk about momentum all the time and that’s what we have to create right now,” Berry said. “We got some quality at-bats, which in prior game we haven’t been successful with. We saw some really good things that we needed to see. Walker only went the four innings, but it was a good start and we haven’t had that.
“We haven’t taken our walks. We’ve really kind of gotten ourselves out at times on pitches out of the zone. Out of 85 innings, we’ve only produced the big inning (three or more runs) four times. We’ve got to create those more to try to take some of the pressure off the pitching staff. Everything seems like it’s a one-run game and every pitch is crucial.”
Playing the likes of Purdue, Mississippi State, UNO and Gonzaga is not an easy task.
“We’ve faced some quality arms, but if you want to play at the end of the year, you’re going to face those quality arms then, too, so you’ve got to hit them now,” Berry said. “That’s why we play a tough schedule, because we’re trying to prepare our guys for later on.”
USM has committed eight errors, and Sunday, three players let a pop-up fall to the ground between them in foul territory. Berry said the defense definitely needs to improve. On Sunday, Jacob Edwards started at third base for the first time. Redshirt freshman Will McGillis started at shortstop.
There have been injuries, and the pitching staff has been worked hard. Berry said Sunday he did not know who would start on Tuesday, but expected to use several pitchers.
“We’ve been pitching pretty good, but the defense and hitting hasn’t been what we need to stay in that elite group (of ranked teams). Until we clean those things up, we’re not going to be in that group.”
The Golden Eagles were ranked No. 23 in the Baseball America preseason poll but are not ranked now.
Berry knows it’s still early in the season, but USM has gone to the NCAA baseball tournament the last three seasons and unless things turn around, this year could be different.
“We haven’t played good baseball though nine games,” he said, “and that’s what we’ve got to learn to do.”