The Southern Miss baseball team pulled its season back from the brink Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.
Down 12-6 after seven innings, the Golden Eagles (40-20) rolled off seven runs over the final two innings for a 13-12 win to set up an 8 p.m. contest with LSU Sunday night in the Baton Rouge Regional. USM will have to beat the Tigers twice to advance out of the Super Regional.
The broadcast of the LSU-USM game will be available on ESPN3.com. LSU handed USM an 8-4 loss on Saturday night.
A 3-run home run by Matthew Guidry in the eighth inning started the rally and a two-out, two-run single by Gabe Montenegro in the bottom of the ninth finished it off to spark a celebration on the field and among the Golden Eagle fans on hand.
USM head coach Scott Berry dropped an old quote from broadcast legend Jack Buck after the game.
“Jack called it as good as good as anybody when he said, ‘I can’t believe what I just saw,’” Berry said. “Honestly, I can’t believe what I just saw out of our guys.”
There was an obvious change of mood in the USM dugout after Guidry’s blast in the eighth and Matt Wallner’s leadoff single in the ninth.
“You spend all year with these guys. We’ve played so many games together,” USM junior pitcher Brant Blaylock said. “You look around and you see J.C. Keys or a Storme Cooper and you realize you’ve got three more outs with these guys, guys you’ve been through so much with. It gets a little emotional because you don’t want those guys’ careers to end on a day like that. It was just going and doing it for those guys and extending their careers as long as we can so we can keep having some fun together.”
Blaylock (2-1) picked up the pitching win with a scoreless ninth and scored from third to tie the game in the bottom of the frame. Hunter LeBlanc, who was hit by a pitch to force home the first run of the inning, scored from second for the decisive run.
Danny Lynch also had a sacrifice fly RBI in the ninth inning to help contribute to the team’s biggest rally of the year. Arizona State held its biggest lead at 10-2 after the top of the fifth.
Montenegro had a career game at the plate for the Golden Eagles, finishing 5-of-6 to set a personal mark for hits in a game. He scored three runs and knocked in a pair.
“It’s about getting on base for guys behind you and that’s exactly what he did,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “To go left-on-left (in the ninth) just shows the player that he is and the player that he has been.”
Junior catcher Bryant Bowen also had a nice day at the plate, going 4-for-5 with a pair of RBIs on a double in the fifth inning.
USM used six pitchers in the win over Arizona State, putting the staff in a difficult situation entering Saturday night’s game against LSU. Berry decided to start junior left-hander Josh Lewis, who hadn’t pitched in the regional, against the Tigers.
Hunter Stanley, who gave up two runs in four innings, and Cody Carroll, who allowed no earned runs in two innings, put in crucial appearances out of the bullpen against ASU to keep the Golden Eagles in it.
ASU (38-19) got the start it needed from Boyd Vander Kooi against USM, eating up 7 2/3 innings on 125 pitches. He gave up eight runs, all earned, on 11 hits, striking out five and walking three.
But that didn’t prove to be enough as five earned runs were allowed by relievers Brady Corrigan and Blaze Burzell (5-1) in a combined 1/3 of an inning of work.
Wallner tied the USM single-season record for home runs with a solo shot to right field in the second inning. Wallner, who holds the USM career mark with 58 homers, tied Clint King (2003), Jeff Cook (‘03), Fred Cooley (‘89) and Bill Selby (‘92).
USM starting pitcher Stevie Powers had a rough outing against ASU. He made the start and lasted one inning, giving up four runs (three earned) on four hits, walking two and striking out none.
Southern Miss scored a total of 28 runs against Arizona State in the regional after beating the Sun Devils 15-3 in the regional opener.