Southern Miss thumps Northwestern State

Published 8:30 am Monday, February 29, 2016

HATTIESBURG — Southern Miss kept crushing the baseball, and crushed another opponent during its red-hot start to the 2016 season.

Taylor Braley went 3-for-5 with a solo home run — his fifth in seven games this season — and two RBIs as Southern Miss beat Northwestern State 8-5 on Sunday.

The Golden Eagles improved to 7-0 with their second consecutive weekend sweep. They’re off to their best start since the 2009 season, when they reached the College World Series.

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“Our message was, ‘You’ve worked hard to give yourselves an opportunity to sweep, and that’s pretty special,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “I knew Northwestern State wasn’t going to let down with their backs against the wall. They’re very competitive, well-coached and gave us everything we wanted in all these games. They never laid down. But our ability to go out and get that sweep, our guys earned that.”

Southern Miss had 11 hits on Sunday, giving it 10 or more hits in six of its first seven games.

Braley has been a big part of that offensive onslaught. He’s hit safely in every game this season and is batting .480. His solo home run into the trees beyond the left field wall Sunday broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning.

“This is going pretty good, but I’m not trying to think about it too much, that way I can keep it going and not try to do too much,” said Braley, who has a team-high 13 RBIs. “But I don’t know if I’ve ever been hitting this good. Not really.”

Designated hitter Daniel Keating, second baseman Storme Cooper and shortstop Nick Dawson combined to hit .484 (15-of-31) with 11 runs scored and 14 RBIs in the series with Northwestern State.

Keating, who hit a key two-run homer Friday and turned in a three-hit game Saturday, went 2-for-3 Sunday with three runs scored.

Cooper went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored Sunday, giving the true freshman seven RBIs on the season.

Dawson raised his batting average to .400, tying career highs Sunday with three hits — including two doubles — and three RBIs.

After Braley’s home run put the Golden Eagles ahead 3-2, they tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to gain some distance.

Dawson had an RBI double, while Dylan Burdeaux and Braley each had an RBI single.

Dawson drove in two more runs with another double in the seventh inning to give the Golden Eagles an 8-3 lead.