TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Southern Miss baseball team appears to have taken its NCAA Regional snub personally.
The Golden Eagles showed their displeasure with the NCAA's decision to deny them a host site by throttling South Alabama 14-2 on Friday in the opening game of the NCAA Regional at Florida State's Dick Howser Stadium.
"We were upset when our name wasn't called," USM senior first baseman Tim Lynch said. "Maybe that was some frustration coming out, I don't know. I just think we played a good game. You kind of forget about all that when you step between the lines."
Whatever the motivation was for USM Friday, it worked against a USA team that won both games against the Eagles during the regular season.
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Sophomore lefty Kirk McCarty (8-1) was outstanding on the mound and the Eagles used an 11-run sixth inning to take a 14-0 lead and put the game to bed early.
"Everything today went our way. Every ball we hit seemed to go for us," USM coach Scott Berry said. "South Alabama is a very good ball club. Today was just a reflection of baseball. That's sometimes how the game goes. I'm proud of the way our guys competed as a whole."
USM (41-18) will play Florida State at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The winner of Saturday night's contest will play again at 5 p.m. on Sunday, the loser plays an elimination game at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
South Alabama (40-21) faces Alabama State at 11 a.m. on Saturday in an elimination game.
McCarty proved extremely efficient as he improved his record to 8-1. The left-hander from Oak Grove threw 69 pitches (49 strikes) in six innings. He didn't allow a hit until Brendan Donovan came through a single with two outs in the fifth inning. "It all started on the mound with Kirk McCarty and how he established both sides of the plate and really commanded his pitches to righties and lefties," Berry said. "South Alabama had four lefties and he did a great job of neutralizing their lineup."
McCarty, who has the potential to pitch again this weekend if USM keeps winning, gave up no runs on three hits, striking out four and walking none in six innings.
"I just wanted to throw strikes and let the defense work and they did that," McCarty said. "We played well all the way around. We wanted to keep it efficient and get quick outs, and we were able to do that."
In a 16-hit effort, Southern Miss had each of its starters register at least one hit and center fielder Jake Sandlin, who finished 2-of-4, was the only starter without an RBI.
Sophomore designated hitter Daniel Keating, a Gulfport native, again led the way at the plate, going 3-for-5 with one run scored.
Junior catcher Chuckie Robinson was the man who sparked the big sixth inning with a leadoff homer that easily cleared the center field fence for his seven home run of the season.
The first three batters reached for USM in the inning, forcing USA starting pitcher Kevin Hill from the game.
Hill's departure marked the beginning of the collapse for USA with three more pitchers entering in the inning - James Traylor, Mike Dolloff and Thomas Huston.
USM, which has won five straight, ended up with a total of 11 runs on eight hits in the inning.
"We felt pretty good going into the sixth," South Alabama coach Mark Calvi said. "Even when Robinson led off with the home run, we still felt like the game was within reach. Things got a bit sideways on us from there. We haven't seen innings get sideways on us this year, but it did. That's part of the game that's unfortunate. Our guys kept fighting." The only moment in the game where South Alabama threatened to halt the USM momentum came in the top of the sixth when Cole Billingsley singled to left with two outs with Travis Swaggerty on second.. Swaggerty attempted to score from second on the play, but USM left fielder Hunter Slater threw a strike to home plate to get the final out of the inning.
"(Assistant coach B.A. Vollmuth) made an adjustment with Slater in left field, bringing him," Berry said. "He throws out the guy at the plate and that really kept the momentum with us. If it's 3-1, that gives them life in their dugout. As a result of the adjustment, we had the ability to throw a strike and apply the tag."
Hill (8-2) gave up six runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out one and walked two.
Slater also had a nice day at the plate, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs.
Berry has chosen Cord Cockrell (7-1, 3.97 ERA) to throw Saturday, while Calvi plans to go with junior right-hander Randy Bell, who is 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA this season.