The Southern Miss baseball team experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows Sunday at Alex Box Stadium. The final day of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional compared favorably to the Golden Eagles’ 2019 season.
“It was a rollercoaster,” said Southern Miss coach Scott Berry. “We had so many peaks and so many valleys, and we were still able to attain 40 wins.”
Backs against the wall and facing elimination, the Golden Eagles rallied from a six-run, eighth-inning deficit to stun Arizona State and reach 40 wins in walk-off fashion Sunday afternoon, 13-12. The victory set up another meeting with LSU and another must-win at 8 pm. The Golden Eagles took a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning of the rematch, but they were unable to hold it. LSU scored three runs in their half of the seventh on the way to sweeping the Baton Rouge Regional with a 6-4 win.
Southern Miss finishes the season 40-21.
“Today, and tonight in this game, I’m very proud,” said Berry. “Disappointed obviously we didn’t win the game, but we had some opportunities there to hold the lead and even chip back into it. LSU was a little bit too much for us, but I can’t thank our guys enough for the effort they gave coming off a long first game to come out here.
“The message was, people expect us to not play hard and use the excuse, ‘Well, they just got through with a game in the hot sun’. But it’s not the expectations they put on us, it’s our expectations that we put on ourself. They didn’t disappoint today, as they went out and really competed from the beginning to the end.”
Southern Miss 13, Arizona State 12
“Well, me and our radio announcer just the other day listened to Jack Buck’s 1985 NLCS call when Ozzie Smith left the yard,” said Berry. “Jack called it as good as anybody when he said, ‘I can’t believe what I just saw’. And, honestly, I can’t believe what I just saw out of our guys. It wasn’t the start we were looking for obviously, but it was the finish we needed.”
The Golden Eagles fell behind 5-0 in the second inning, 10-2 in the fifth and 12-6 in the sixth, but they scored seven unanswered runs between the eighth and ninth to mount the comeback and live to fight another game.
Gabe Montenegro went 5-for-6 at the plate to lead Southern Miss. The sophomore also delivered the game-winner, a two-run single with two out in the bottom of the ninth, to propel the Golden Eagles to the win.
“I was seeing it pretty well,” said Montenegro. “I was just trying to get out there and get on base pretty much, and trust the other guys behind me to get the job done. That was my approach.”
Bryant Bowen added four hits for the Golden Eagles.
LSU 6, Southern Miss 4
Like the first game of the day, it wasn’t an ideal start for the Golden Eagles, as LSU’s Josh Smith jumped on the first pitch he saw from Southern Miss starter Josh Lewis and gave the Tigers an early 1-0 lead with a solo homer.
“Smith leaves the yard, and it would be pretty easy to just kinda go, ‘Oh, crap’,” said Berry. “But he [Lewis] buckled down and got after it and gave us a chance to win. He took us deep in the game, six innings.”
Smith got to Lewis again in the second with a two-run triple which extended the LSU lead to 3-0, but the junior left-hander followed with four straight scoreless innings of work, giving the Golden Eagles a chance to chip away at the lead.
And that they did.
Montenegro stayed hot in the fourth inning with a leadoff solo homer, and then in the fifth, Bryant Bowen walked and Hunter LeBlanc singled to give the Golden Eagles runners on the corners with one out. Danny Lynch took advantage and tied the game 3-3 with a two-run single. Two batters later, Matthew Guidry drove in Lynch to put the Golden Eagles ahead, 4-3. Matt Wallner struck out with the bases loaded to end the frame.
The Tigers tried to answer back in the sixth. Saul Garza and Cade Beloso led off the inning with back-to-back singles, but Lewis got a pair of groundouts and a pop-up to keep LSU off the board in the frame.
Lewis wasn’t so fortunate in the bottom of the seventh. After allowing back-to-back singles to start the inning, he was pulled in favor of Jarod Wright, who gave up the lead two pitches into his outing. Zach Watson drove in both runners charged to Lewis with a single to centerfield, and Garza followed with an RBI double to score Watson. Garza’s hit capped off a three-run inning for the Tigers, who took a 6-4 lead into the eighth.
In the eighth, Hunter Slater singled and Wallner walked to give Southern Miss a pair of baserunners with nobody out, but two groundouts and a strikeout stranded them. Montenegro was hit by a pitch with two out in the ninth, but Guidry grounded out to end the game.