USM wins in finale vs. FAU

Published 8:57 pm Sunday, May 1, 2016

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Southern Miss wasn’t able to bring a series win back from its Florida road trip, but it did at least keep pace in the Conference USA championship race.

Chuckie Robinson’s two-run double keyed a big rally in the sixth inning that gave Southern Miss the lead for good, and it held off a comeback bid by Florida Atlantic in the ninth to win 4-3 Sunday.

Christian Dicks singled in two runs in the bottom of the ninth for Florida Atlantic, which had the tying run at third base with two outs. Austin Langham drove a fly ball to the warning track in left field that was caught by J.C. Keys to end the game.

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“We gave ourselves a chance,” Florida Atlantic coach John McCormack said. “I thought we had some opportunities and could have used a hit, but credit to USM. Their pitchers threw really well. Overall it was a really good game between two good teams.”

Florida Atlantic (30-12, 14-7 Conference USA) won the first two games of the series, 9-5 and 9-4, before Southern Miss (31-14, 15-6) took the finale to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season.

Southern Miss moved back into a tie for first place in C-USA with Rice (27-14, 15-6). Florida Atlantic is a game back of both teams.

Robinson finished 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored for Southern Miss on Sunday, and Daniel Keating doubled and scored two runs. Hunter Slater also had two hits for the Golden Eagles.

C.J. Chatham, who had nine hits in the three-game series, doubled and scored on a base hit by Esteban Puerta to give FAU a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

The lead lasted until the sixth, when a walk and a hit batter led to Robinson’s two-run double that gave Southern Miss the lead. Robinson scored on a wild pitch, and later hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to make it 4-1.

FAU rallied in the ninth, though. A walk, hit batter and single by Puerta — all with two outs — set the stage for Dicks, who singled to center to cut the deficit to 4-3 and put the tying run at third base.

Langham hit a 1-0 pitch from Nick Sandlin deep to left field, but it settled into Keys’ glove for the final out.

Sandlin worked around his adventurous ninth inning to earn his eighth save of the season. Kirk McCarty (4-0) started and allowed one run in five innings to get the win. He struck out five, walked one and gave up eight hits.

Walker Powell pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the middle of the game for USM.

Robbie Coursel (2-1), the first of four relievers used by Florida Atlantic, took the loss. He allowed two walks, a hit and two runs in only two-thirds of an inning. FAU starter Sean Labsan pitched five scoreless innings and left with the lead, but wound up with a no-decision.

Southern Miss has 10 games left in the regular season — nine of them within the conference and the next seven of them at home — before it hosts the C-USA Tournament May 25-29. The Golden Eagles will return to action Friday when they open a series against Western Kentucky.