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Southern Miss stumbles vs. ECU

Published 10:30 am Thursday, May 22, 2014

Somehow, in spite of its own bumbling ways Wednesday night, Southern Miss seemed poised to cap a comeback for the ages.

The Golden Eagles overcame a four-run deficit to tie East Carolina in the ninth inning Wednesday and had the winning run in scoring position. It never came home, and a little while later the Golden Eagles’ comeback also became a footnote.

Southern Miss reliever Sean Buchholz issued three walks in the top of the 11th inning, including back-to-back bases-on-balls that forced in the go-ahead run, as sixth-seeded East Carolina outlasted third-seeded Southern Miss 9-8 in 11 innings.

Southern Miss also committed a season-high six errors. Three of them came during a five-run fifth inning for East Carolina.

“It is tough to win a Division I postseason game committing six errors,” Southern Miss assistant coach Chad Caillet said. “Obviously, six walks didn’t help either, and the last one was the crucial one. You have to play cleaner baseball in the postseason.”

With its league-leading 14th one-run victory, East Carolina (33-24) moved on to face seventh-seeded Texas-San Antonio (33-24) at 7:30 tonight in a winners’ bracket game.

Southern Miss (32-24) plays UAB in an elimination game today at 12:30 p.m. at Pete Taylor Park. The Golden Eagles and Blazers were the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds in the tournament.

“That is the beauty of college baseball, definitely tournament play. We get to get up early in the morning, take BP and battle it out with a tough UAB team, who we had some success with midseason,” Caillet said. “At the end of the day, we have to get back on the horse and play.”

Southern Miss and East Carolina traded body blows early Wednesday. Breck Kline led off the game with a home run for USM, then Bryce Harman tied it with a leadoff homer in the third.

East Carolina scored twice in the third inning, Southern Miss answered with three in the bottom half, then the Pirates vaulted ahead as USM’s defense melted down in the fifth inning.

Three errors, a bases-loaded walk, and a two-run single by Luke Lowery led to five runs as East Carolina took a 7-4 lead. It added another run in the seventh on an RBI double by Harman.

Southern Miss, however, didn’t fade away.

Dylan Burdeaux drove in two runs with a single in the seventh, and Nick Dawson’s sacrifice fly in the eighth cut it to 8-7.

Back-to-back two-out doubles by Matt Durst and Burdeaux in the ninth completed the comeback, although Burdeaux was stranded at second.

Burdeaux was 3-for-5 with four RBIs.

“That was the positive of the night. We could have laid down with a four-run deficit, but our offense plugged away,” Caillet said.

Neither team did anything in the 10th inning, and in the 11th things unraveled again for Southern Miss.

Dylan Brown led off with a double, and the Pirates loaded the bases with a pair of walks. With two outs, Buchholz issued a four-pitch walk to Hunter Allen to bring in the go-ahead run.

Buchholz got out of the inning without further damage, but East Carolina reliever Ryan Williams retired USM in order in the bottom of the 11th to finish the game.

Williams (11-3) got the win. He allowed two runs over the last 4 2/3 innings, walked two batters and struck out four.

Buchholz (0-1), A.J. Glasshof, and USM’s Luke Lowery combined to allow two runs over the last seven innings to give the Golden Eagles a chance after a rocky start.

“I thought A.J. Glasshof did a great job hanging zeros to give our offense the opportunity to get back in the game, which we did,” Caillet said. “At the end of the day, we committed six errors. It is hard to win a Division I game with six errors.”

Conference USA Tournament

Wednesday’s scores

Middle Tennessee 3, Old Dominion 2

Rice 9, Fla. International 2

UTSA 4, UAB 1

East Carolina 9, Southern Miss 8, 11 innings

Today’s games

Old Dominion vs. FIU, 9 a.m.

UAB vs. Southern Miss, 12:30 p.m.

Middle Tennessee vs. Rice, 4 p.m.

UTSA vs. East Carolina, 7:30 p.m.