Southern Miss

Robinson, Southern Miss complete sweep of Western Kentucky

USM catcher Chuckie Robinson hit two homers and had 11 RBI as the Golden Eagles swept Western Kentucky.
USM catcher Chuckie Robinson hit two homers and had 11 RBI as the Golden Eagles swept Western Kentucky. SUN HERALD

HATTIESBURG -- Chuckie Robinson knocked the cover off the ball all week long for Southern Miss, but the other Golden Eagles joined the hit parade on Sunday in a 13-4 Conference USA victory over Western Kentucky at Pete Taylor Park.

It didn't matter that Robinson, who entered the game with 13 hits in his last 19 at-bats, got only one hit, a two-run single in the seventh inning, because the Eagles wound up the three-game series sweep of the Hilltoppers by banging out 16 hits on Sunday.

Everybody in the starting lineup got at least one hit. USM scored five runs in the second inning and seven in the seventh to take command of the game.

The sweep keeps Southern Miss tied with Rice for first place in the Conference USA standings, each with an 18-6 record. USM is 34-14 overall and has only seven more games before the C-USA tournament, scheduled for May 25-29 at Pete Taylor Park.

"It was a little bit of everybody," said senior center fielder Jake Sandlin, who had a single and double and three RBIs. "Hitting was hot. We threw up a bunch of zeroes, but we had some really big innings, so that's always good. However you score, it doesn't matter. You score them."

Sunday's win gives the Golden Eagles a 22-3 record at The Pete this season, and they are 10-1 in Sunday games and 12-0 in the final games of weekend series. This was the fourth Conference USA three-game sweep for USM.

"It's real hard to sweep in college baseball, Division I, I don't care where you are or who you are, it's just tough," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "But our guys have been resilient in being able to do that."

That was certainly the case on Sunday. Hunter Slater had two singles and a double, Chase Scott hit two singles, Nick Dawson had a single and a double and sophomore designated hitter Daniel Keating of Gulfport blasted a solo home run.

The sweep prompts talk of Southern Miss getting an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, something the Golden Eagles have not done since 2011.

"At the start of the season, everybody said, 'We want to get back,'" Sandlin said. "We're so far past that because we're going to get back. Now we want to do something more, we want to host."

Southern Miss pitchers performed well this weekend, despite Friday night starter Cord Cockrell leaving early in the game because of an arm problem. Berry is trying to find a dependable Saturday starter, so he moved Kirk McCarty up a day in the rotation and he pitched well on Saturday.

That left 6-foot-7 freshman Walker Powell to start for the first time on Sunday. He went 4 2/3 innings and gave up six hits, three earned runs while striking out two and walking only one.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't (nervous)," Powell said. "I just pound the zone and try not to walk too many guys. Let them hit it and let my defense work."

Twenty-two of Powell's first 26 pitches were strikes. Altogether, he threw 69 pitches, 46 of which were strikes.

Berry said he was pleased with Powell, although he got too many pitches up in the strike zone.

Luke Lowery (4-0) came to mound in relief in the fifth inning and picked up the win. Hayden Roberts pitched two innings and Nick Johnson and Clay Tageant each pitched one.

Berry said next weekend's rotation against Louisiana Tech (at Pete Taylor Park) is up in the air.

"We'll have to see what Cord's situation is as far as the rotation next week," Berry said. "We were trying to get Kirk up in the weekend series to set that up in the conference tournament. What we're learning is that, with some guys down, some guys are going to be counted on to step up and whether you're ready or not, you better man up and get it done."

Oh yeah, about Chuckie Robinson: The Southern Miss catcher finished the series with eight hits, including two home runs, and 11 RBIs. But he had a lot of help on Sunday.