Southern Miss advances to Sun Belt championship game after 12-hour marathon

Published 9:24 pm Saturday, May 25, 2024

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — At long last, Southern Miss is headed to the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game.

Nick Monistere hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning — just before the second of two lengthy weather delays — and the Golden Eagles outlasted Appalachian State 7-5 in the Sun Belt semifinals on Saturday.

The game ended just before 9 p.m., 12 hours after it began. The first weather delay hit in the third inning and lasted 2 hours and 47 minutes. The second came in the fifth inning and it took 5 1/2 hours before play resumed.

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Southern Miss (40-18) squeezed in a five-run rally before the second delay to take the lead for good. Slade Wilks doubled in two runs, Davis Gillespie hit an RBI groundout, and Monistere blasted his home run 427 feet off the scoreboard in left center field.

Neither team scored once play finally resumed at 7:37 p.m., although Appalachian State (33-21-1) had a chance in the bottom of the ninth. It loaded the bases with two outs, but Colby Allen struck out Joseph Zamora to end the game.

Allen pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his sixth save of the season and cap a stellar bullpen effort by the Golden Eagles. Ben Riley Flowers threw 2 1/3 innings and Josh Och followed with 3 1/3. None of the three relievers allowed a run, and they combined for seven strikeouts.

Flowers (2-1) was credited with the win.

Southern Miss advanced to the Sun Belt championship game for the second year in a row, and notched its eighth consecutive 40-win season. It’ll face the winner between Georgia Southern and James Madison, who played after USM and Appalachian State.

James Madison needs to beat Georgia Southern twice to reach the championship game. If James Madison wins Saturday night, the teams will play again Sunday with the championship game to follow afterward. No start times for Sunday’s games were immediately announced.