Big inning propels USM by CharlottePublished 11:55pm Saturday, May 17, 2014
Southern Miss is coming back to Hattiesburg a winner, and now it’ll try to turn its homefield advantage into a Conference USA championship.
Breck Kline and Austin Roussel each had a two-run double during a five-run sixth inning Saturday, and the Golden Eagles finished the regular season with a 5-2 victory over Charlotte.
Southern Miss (32-23, 19-11 C-USA) won its eighth league series of the season and posted its best conference record since winning 20 games in 2005.
It’ll host the C-USA Tournament next week at Pete Taylor Park. Southern Miss reached the championship game and went on to advance to the College World Series the last time the tournament was played in Hattiesburg in 2009.
USM’s tournament opener will be Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against East Carolina.
Charlotte (19-31-1, 10-19) did not qualify for the eight-team, double-elimination C-USA Tournament, and had its season end with Saturday’s loss.
The Golden Eagles will head into the postseason with some momentum. They won their last two series and four of their last five games.
Four of their six hits Saturday were doubles, including the two by Kline and Roussel in the sixth inning. Michael Sterling started that rally with a one-out single and eventually scored the first run on a wild pitch.
A hit batter and two walks set the table for Kline, who doubled to right center to give Southern Miss a 3-1 lead. Two batters after that, Roussel doubled into the right field corner to bring in two more runs.
“We had a bad inning. It’s something that’s happened at times over the course of the season. We had a couple of defensive miscues. Not necessarily errors, just miscues, and then we elevated some pitches,” Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs said. “Southern Miss does what good teams do. They took advantage, put a couple of good swings on there, and we just couldn’t quite get to a couple of balls defensively and it snowballed on us.”
Charlotte got a run back in the seventh on an RBI single by Grant Dunnegan, but left two runners on base. After USM closer Bradley Roney got out of that jam, he went the rest of the way to earn his 11th save of the season.