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Southern Miss advances to C-USA semifinals

BILOXI — Southern Miss started the week in Biloxi needing to win the Conference USA Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

It’s halfway there.

Matthew Guidry and Gabe Montenegro both homered, Matt Wallner had four hits, and Southern Miss beat Marshall 10-5 on Thursday to reach the C-USA Tournament semifinals.

Southern Miss (36-19) will now have Friday off before playing either Rice or Marshall Saturday at 9 a.m. Southern Miss must lose twice to be eliminated, and will advance to Sunday’s championship game with one more victory.

Rice and Marshall (29-27) play an elimination game Friday at 3 p.m., with the winner advancing to face Southern Miss.

Southern Miss has won two of the last three C-USA Tournament championships, and reached the championship game the other time.

Southern Miss never trailed on Thursday, but did not put Marshall away until the ninth inning, either. Marshall twice cut deep into four-run deficits. Shane Hanon hit a two-run single in the eighth inning that pulled the Thundering Herd to within 7-5.

In the top of the ninth, however, Montenegro belted a three-run home run to put the Golden Eagles ahead 10-5, and it was too late for another Marshall comeback. Hunter Stanley retired the side in order in the ninth to close it out.

Stanley had three strikeouts in two innings of scoreless relief to earn his third save of the season. Reliever Brant Blaylock (1-1) pitched two innings and was credited with the win. Southern Miss used five pitchers in all. They allowed eight hits and seven walks, but also had 11 strikeouts and mostly kept Marshall at bay.