Southern Miss beats Rice on walk-off hit

Published 11:41 pm Sunday, April 24, 2016

HATTIESBURG (AP) — Southern Miss pinch hitter Daniel Keating lost his shirt Sunday.

That’s because his teammates mobbed him and ripped the buttons off his No. 3 jersey after his game-winning walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the Golden Eagles to a 2-1 victory over Rice.

The single that scored Hunter Slater from third base put Southern Miss (29-12, 14-4 Conference USA) atop the C-USA standings. Rice (25-13, 13-5) is in second place after losing two of three in the series at Pete Taylor Park.

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It’s the first time Southern Miss has won a series against Rice since 2008.

“I tried to get a fly ball to the outfield and I got enough of it,” Keating said. “I knew it was going to fall. It was awesome. As soon as I touched first base, I knew I was going to get mobbed. I tried to get away from the dogpile but they finally took me down.”

Keating’s winning hit wrapped up a weekend series that 11,871 fans attended, including 3,551 on Sunday. And oh, what a series it was. Southern Miss won the first game 2-1, while Rice won the second game 4-3.

Southern Miss did not commit an error all weekend and Rice did not commit one until the fifth inning Sunday.

“It was a great series, very clean series for both programs,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “That’s what (Rice coach Wayne) Graham and I talked about briefly at the end of the game. Both teams gutted it out, both teams were at the top of the conference, we’re now up there one game ahead. It was championship Sunday is what we called it.”

There’s a long way to go before the end of the season and the C-USA Tournament at Pete Taylor Park May 25-29.

But the Golden Eagles can think about that later, after they get over this thrill.

Starting pitchers Kirk McCarty of USM and Ricardo Salinas of Rice locked up in a duel for much of the game, with the only run through seven innings coming on Chuckie Robinson’s solo home run in the second inning.

McCarty lasted seven innings and struck out eight, walked two and scattered nine hits. Salinas went 7 2/3 innings, giving up four hits and three walks while striking out four.

They turned it over to relievers after that and USM’s Slater drew a leadoff walk off Austin Solecitto. A wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt by Tracy Hadley moved Slater to third.

Berry told Keating to hit for J.C. Keys, who had been in the game for his defensive abilities in left field.

“I had a couple options,” Berry said. “I didn’t know if they were going to walk Keating to set up the double play. They opted not to. He’s been taking some really good swings in (batting practice) and I just felt confident with him in there. At least a fly ball, that’s what we were looking for more than anything. And he was able to deliver the base hit.”

LSU 11, Mississippi State 8

A series win was all Mississippi State could bring back from Baton Rouge.

Kramer Robertson and Bryce Jordan both homered, and LSU scored all of its runs in the middle innings in beating Mississippi State 11-8 Sunday at Alex Box Stadium.

Mississippi State (27-13-1, 10-8 Southeastern Conference) won the first two games of the series, but couldn’t take the finale. It’s the fourth time in six SEC series that it’s followed that pattern.

The Bulldogs won their first series against LSU since 2006.

“We didn’t make enough plays defensively to win the game,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “We were great in the field Friday and Saturday. In this game, we just had a couple of plays that we didn’t make.”

Brent Rooker and Nathaniel Lowe each had an RBI double in the third inning as Mississippi State jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

LSU, however, scored four runs in the fourth inning, four more in the fifth, and three in the sixth to take a commanding 11-5 lead.

Robertson had an RBI double and Jordan a two-run home run in the fifth inning. Robertson hit a solo homer in the sixth.

“I’m so proud of our guys for continuing to battle in this game after we faced the early deficit,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “They could have easily thrown in the towel when we were down 3-0 in the fourth inning, but they didn’t, they remained focused and energized, as I knew they would. These are high-character kids, and they earned a significant victory today.”

Reid Humphreys had a two-run single in the eighth as Mississippi State cut its deficit to 11-8. The Bulldogs left the bases loaded, however, and then went down in order in the ninth.

“I thought we had some great offensive at-bats the entire weekend,” Cohen said. “We had great at-bats in this game as well. We certainly gave ourselves a chance. A couple of different innings we were a base hit away from being tied.”

Ole Miss 6, Auburn 5

Ole Miss (31-10, 10-8 SEC) scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to earn a comeback victory over Auburn (18-22, 5-13).

The Rebels rallied from 5-0 down in the eighth inning scoring six times in the last two innings.

Freshman Ryan Olenek belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth before Henri Lartigue delivered the game-winning hit for the walkoff victory.

It was only fitting that Lartigue drove in the winning run. The junior catcher was the Rebels’ leading hitter all afternoon, going 4-for-5 to tie his career high in hits. Colby Bortles started the comeback with a two-run homer in the eighth, his fifth home run of the season.

Bortles also played a part in the final run of the game. After Tate Blackman reached on an error, Bortles’ single moved him to second base to set up Lartigue’s game-winning single to left field.