Southern Miss

After some early struggles, Southern Miss is back to roughing up C-USA competition

Southern Miss roughed up Old Dominion again in baseball action Sunday at Pete Taylor Park, beating the Monarchs 9-0 to sweep the Conference USA series.

In the three-game series, the Golden Eagles outscored the visitors 34-4.

More importantly, Sunday’s win gave Southern Miss first place in Conference USA with a 6-0 league mark, to go with its 15-6 overall record. FAU (16-8, 5-1) dropped back to second place after a 6-5 loss to UAB on Sunday.

“The message was to pick up where we left off (Saturday) and that’s exactly what they did,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said.

For sure. Six pitchers toed the rubber for the winners in picking up their second shutout of the series, with relievers Sean Tweedy (2-0) and Alex Nelms of Gulfport setting the tone in the early stages of the game after starter Game Shepard had difficulty with his control.

And the hits kept coming, too. The Eagles had 10 on Sunday and 37 for the weekend. Erick Hoard led the charge with three hits Sunday, two singles and a solo home run, along with three runs batted in while Gabe Montenegro had two, including a triple. Matthew Guidry also homered, his third of the season.

It was the eighth straight game in which the Golden Eagles had 10 or more hits, and it was the eighth straight win and 11th in the last 12 games for them.

The first inning Sunday was the most impactful. USM scored seven runs on seven hits and a walk. Matthew Guidry hit a two-run home run and Gabe Montenegro belted a two-run triple, to go with his single earlier in the inning. Matt Wallner, Hoard and Danny Lynch each hit singles in the opening inning.

“We’ve been leaving a lot of people on base,” Hoard said. “We went through a little slump but now we’re carrying each other. It’s a team sport.”

Hoard drove in another run in the second inning with a single and still another in the sixth with his first “official” home run of the season. He hit one two weeks ago early in a game against Gonzaga but it was disallowed because the game was canceled because a storm stopped it before conclusion.

“It was a fastball up,” Hoard said about Sunday’s homer. “I swing at a lot of fastballs up. Nine out of 10 times I miss it but that time I connected.”

But really, after the second inning, the pitchers — for both teams — shined.

Hunter Gregory and Isaiah Nelson threw well for Old Dominion (15-8, 1-5 C-USA) while Tweedy, Nelms, Aaron Ginn, Hunter Stanley and Ryan Och all combined with starter Shepard for the shutout.

“This weekend I’d say all the credit goes to the hitters,” Tweedy said. “Honestly, it set the tone for the pitchers to come in and fill the (strike) zone up. Everybody’s just coming in and doing their jobs.”

Guidry admitted the Eagles have been doing their jobs in winning eight in a row.

“Coach Berry always tells us that we have a target on our backs in the conference,” Guidry said. “We just try to protect that and run with it.”