HATTIESBURG-- Nick Dawson may be a middle infielder, a lifetime .236 hitter with not much to show as a power hitter for the Southern Miss baseball team.
But Dawson, playing shortstop in a tie game, crushed an Andy Fisher fastball over the center field fence in the eighth inning to lift the Golden Eagles to a come-from-behind 6-4 victory over Eastern Illinois at Pete Taylor Park on Sunday.
Dawson's home run, along with those by Taylor Braley and Tim Lynch, all in the seventh and eighth innings, gave the Eagles nine homers in the first three games of the 2016 season, all over Eastern Illinois.
"It's probably the best (ball) I've hit since I've been in college in four years, Dawson said.
That's 133 games for the slick-fielding infielder, and he had only one homer in those games. He only had 10 doubles and one triple in his career. But when he broke a 4-4 tie by belting the Fisher pitch, it really excited his teammates.
"They always mess with me for not having power, so it was unexpected," Dawson said. "It felt awesome.
"The team really needed a runner on base so I was just trying to get on. I put a good swing on it and it just happened to go over the fence. I knew I hit it hard, I didn't know if it was going to go over or not. I was still sprinting around second so I didn't really know."
USM coach Scott Berry didn't, either.
"I didn't know it was gone, I will tell you that," Berry said. "But when I saw the center fielder turn, I knew we had a double for sure, that it would be pushed to the wall at least. But it just kept carrying. He put a real good swing on it."
The Golden Eagles didn't get too many good swings early in the game as Eastern Illinois starting pitcher Brendon Allen kept them off-balance with a breaking ball away and a fastball in. Allen gave up only one hit in 5 2/3 innings.
For the game, USM had six hits. But three went over the new padded wall at The Pete.
Trailing 4-2 in the seventh inning, Southern Miss sophomore Taylor Braley homered off Fisher to make it 4-3. Braley now has a home run in each of USM's three games this season..
After Braley's homer, USM catcher Chuckie Robinson singled, went to third on a single by Jake Sandlin and scored on a ground out by former Harrison Central standout Michael Gilbert to make it 4-4.
In the eighth, Dawson put the Eagles ahead 5-4 and Tim Lynch added an insurance run with a homer down the right-field line.
Kirk McCarty started on the mound for Southern Miss, going 5.0 innings and giving up four runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out six, five in the first two innings.
Luke Lowery and Nick Johnson each pitched one inning in relief and Cody Livingston threw the final two, picking up the win.
Southern Miss will host five games this week: Louisiana-Monroe (Tuesday), New Orleans (Wednesday) and Northwestern State (next weekend).