Southern Miss still standing in C-USA

Published 10:01 am Friday, May 23, 2014

Inning after inning Thursday, Southern Miss and UAB took turns putting runners on base and leaving them there to rot like overripe fruit in the warm Mississippi sun.

The teams combined to leave 27 runners on the basepaths — 13 for Southern Miss and 14 for UAB. Somewhere along the way, however, the Golden Eagles got it right one more time than the Blazers, and it was the difference in continuing their season and having it end.

Nick Dawson doubled in what turned out to be the winning run in the top of the eighth inning, and reliever Bradley Roney worked in and out of trouble over the final three innings before locking down a 4-3 victory over UAB that kept Southern Miss alive in the Conference USA Tournament.

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“We kept grinding,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “We found a way to win with our backs against the wall in a survival game, which every one of them is from here on out.”

The Golden Eagles (33-24) advanced to play another elimination game today at 6:30 against East Carolina.

Southern Miss rebounded after committing six errors in an opening-round loss to East Carolina, and has now won at least one game in every conference tournament it has played in since 1985.

“It was a huge win. Coach Berry talked about the quick turnaround, and I feel like our team did a great job today coming out and getting this win,” said Southern Miss center fielder Connor Barron, who went 2-for-5 and scored a run.

Neither team committed a fielding error Thursday, but neither was able to take advantage of numerous opportunities to score runs, either.

Southern Miss left two runners on base four times, and the bases loaded once. UAB (35-20) left the bases loaded twice.

The teams combined for 25 hits, and Southern Miss’ pitchers walked seven batters.

“It was a great game. In this era, the dead bat and dead ball era, all games are close. It is so hard to get extra-base hits and produce big innings,” UAB coach Brian Shoop said. “Our kids made great runs at them. We had bases loaded twice and eventually got two cracks at it. You just don’t come through all the time.”

Austin Roussel hit a sacrifice fly, and Mason Robbins and Matt Durst each had RBI singles for Southern Miss. Dawson’s double in the top of the eighth gave the Golden Eagles a 4-1 lead.

UAB, though, got two runs back in the eighth as Tyler Mims scored on a wild pitch and Griffin Gum delivered a sacrifice fly that cut it to 4-3.

Roney issued a walk to load the bases, then struck out Nathan Vincent to get out of the jam with the lead. He worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth to close it out and earn his 12th save of the season.

Roney had entered the game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the seventh. He get out of that jam with a pop up and a double play ball, then the mess of his own making in the eighth.

Roney gave up two runs on three hits, walked three batters and threw one wild pitch in three innings on the hill, but never gave up the big hit that would’ve put UAB ahead.

“That’s Roney. He’ll put them on, but he’ll strike them out too,” Robbins said. “We always have faith in him that he can get it done, and he did today.”

Conference USA Tournament

Thursday’s games

Old Dominion 3, Florida International 2

Southern Miss 4, UAB 3

Rice 8, Middle Tennessee 2

UTSA 8, East Carolina 3

Friday’s games

Old Dominion vs. Middle Tennessee, 3 p.m.

Southern Miss vs. East Carolina, 6:30 p.m.