Southern Miss crushes James Madison to complete series sweep

Published 3:59 pm Sunday, April 16, 2023

HATTIESBURG — Slade slayed it on Sunday.

Southern Miss designated hitter Slade Wilks homered twice, including a grand slam, and tied a school record with eight RBIs as the Golden Eagles crushed James Madison 15-2 in the finale of a three-game series at Pete Taylor Park.

“He’s really seeing the ball well and not missing his pitch,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said of Wilks. “Both those home runs were on 3-0 swings. When you lock him in and have a chance to get hurt, that’s what happens.”

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Christopher Sargent also hit two home runs — he went back-to-back with Wilks in the third and fifth innings — and finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and four runs scored.

Dustin Dickerson went 4-for-5 and scored four runs as well. Matthew Etzel, Dickerson, Wilks and Sargent, the first four batters in Southern Miss’ lineup, were a combined 12-for-16 with 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored.

“That’s why they’re up there at the top. We want them to get as many at-bats as they can because they have the ability to influence the outcome of an inning or the outcome of a game,” Berry said.

After James Madison scored a run in the top of the first, Southern Miss answered with three in the bottom half. It added three more runs in the second, four in the third, and five in the fifth.

The game ended after the top of the seventh because of the mercy rule.

After allowing the run in the opening inning, Southern Miss starter Niko Mazza settled down and gave up one hit and two walks over the next four innings to get the victory and improve to 4-1.

Both Isaiah Rhodes and Chandler Dawson tossed an inning in relief.

James Madison (20-15, 5-8 Sun Belt Conference) only had three hits in the game.

Southern Miss (22-12, 10-5) completed its first-ever, three-game sweep as a member of the Sun Belt.

“That’s awesome. It’s kind of been evading us the past couple of weeks,” Wilks said of earning the sweep. “We’ve been close, a lot of close games we’ve lost. In my eyes it’s only been a matter of time. We’ve been playing some good baseball and I thought we played really well in all aspects today.”

The Golden Eagles  will start a five-game road swing Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Louisiana Tech.

After that, they begin a Sun Belt series at Coastal Carolina Friday at 5 p.m. Coastal Carolina (23-11, 11-4) has a one-game lead on Southern Miss atop the Sun Belt standings, so next weekend’s series in Myrtle Beach will go a long way toward determining the league’s regular-season champion.

“I don’t look at it, in all honesty. My whole career I’ve tried to stay one game at a time and control what you can control,” Berry said. “Before we ever go to Coastal we’ve got to make a trip to Ruston and that’s certainly a very good program over there.”