Courtesy of USM Athletics
Consecutive eighth-inning doubles and a WKU fielding error accounted for two runs in leading Southern Miss over the Hilltoppers 6-5 Friday evening in the first game of a Conference USA series at Pete Taylor Park.
The Golden Eagles (24-12 overall, 11-5 in C-USA) continue a solid month of April, having won 10 of 13 games.
Southern Miss trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth when Gabe Montenegro led off the inning with his team-leading 14th double. Montenegro collected three of the Golden Eagles 11 hits in the contest.
Reed Trimble followed with a double of his own to center to score Montenegro to tie the game. After a sacrifice by Brady Faust and a sharp lineout to third by Christopher Sargent, left-hander Reece Ewing hit a ball the other way into left-center field. It looked like Ty Crittenberger was going to catch the drifting fly ball to end the inning, but the ball caromed off his glove, allowing Trimble to score the go-ahead run.
Initially, Southern Miss had jumped out to an early lead with a solo run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Dickerson.
WKU (18-19, 8-9) tied the score in the sixth on a leadoff solo home run by Ray Zuberer III with his fourth round-tripper of the year.
The Golden Eagles, though, retook the advantage in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Will McGillis and Johnson collected back-to-back doubles with the second one driving in a run. Montenegro then plated Johnson two batters later with a single up the middle.
The home squad increased the advantage to 4-1 in the seventh with a bases loaded hit by pitch by McGillis.
Hunter Stanley was solid through 7 2/3 innings for the Golden Eagles as he allowed three runs on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts for another quality start.
Unfortunately, he allowed a one-out single in the eighth and that was followed with a two-out RBI double by Jackson Gray off the centerfield wall. The Golden Eagles then went to the pen for Ryan Och, who allowed a walk and then a three-run home run to Crittenberger, his second of the year, to give the Hilltoppers the 5-4 advantage.
Och then got a strikeout to end the eighth and got a pop out to first to open the ninth before hitting a batter and turning it over to closer Garrett Ramsey. After Ramsey hit a batter, he got a strikeout and then got Justin Carlin to hit a sinking liner to centerfield which Trimble made a dazzling diving catch to save the game for the Golden Eagles and ending the contest.
Och got the win to improve to 5-0, while Ramsey earned his ninth save. Bailey Sutton, the sixth of six WKU pitchers, gave up an unearned run on a hit with a run and a strikeout to suffer the loss and fall to 2-1.
The two teams continue the series with a 2 p.m., doubleheader Saturday.