USM splits doubleheader with Georgia Southern, claims weekend series

Southern Miss, Slade Wilks
Southern Miss, Slade Wilks
Published: Mar. 25, 2023 at 11:43 PM CDT
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Southern Miss Sports Information

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Slade Wilks blasted a three-run home run to lift Southern Miss in the opening game of a twinbill, 9-7, while Georgia Southern collected two round-trippers in the top of the ninth to rally for a 10-8 comeback victory in the nightcap as the teams split a doubleheader Saturday at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field.

The Golden Eagles (14-9 overall, 3-3 Sun Belt) won their first-ever Sun Belt Conference series by winning the opening two games of the series, while Georgia Southern completed the set at 12-12, 4-2. Rain expected in the Hattiesburg area Sunday necessitated the two games on Saturday.

In the opening game, Southern Miss jumped out to a 6-2 advantage after four innings, but the visiting Eagles got a solo run in the fifth and then two each in the seventh and eighth, the go-ahead runs on a two-run double by Sam Blancato.

Down 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, Danny Lynch led off the frame by being hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt by Gabe Lacy, Georgia Southern went to the pen. After a strikeout by Matthew Etzel, Dustin Dickerson was intentionally walked before Wilks lifted his team-leading seventh homer to center to give the Eagles the lead.

Tensions boiled over at the plate after Wilks’ homer and a player from each team was ejected from the game.

Justin Storm, who lost the lead an inning earlier, gave up a two-out double in the ninth before getting a strikeout to end the game and earn a victory. The left-hander improved to 1-0 on the year. He allowed four hits over the final two innings and a pair of runs (one earned) with four strikeouts in his outing.

Etzel and Rodrigo Montenegro led the way for the Eagles with three hits, while Dickerson and Christopher Sargent had two apiece in the 13-hit attack. Dickerson added his second home run of the season as well.

Jay Thompson, the third of four Georgia Southern pitchers, got tagged with the loss by allowing two runs on a hit with a walk and a strikeout over a third of a frame.

In the nightcap, preseason league Player of the Year Noah Ledford had three hits, including a solo home run – his second of the game and sixth of the year – to tie the game at 8-8 to open the ninth off Golden Eagle reliever JB Middleton. After a pair of strikeouts were bookended around a hit by pitch, Blancato hit a homer of his own, a two-run shot, to give Georgia Southern the lead for good.

Creek Robertson had a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth, but Etzel grounded into a double play to end the contest.

Thompson, who got tagged with the loss in the opening game, got the win in the second one for Georgia Southern, as he threw the final 2 1/3 innings and allowed just three its to improve to 1-2.

Middleton suffered the loss and fell to 0-2 as he surrendered three runs on three hits over 1 1/3 innings with no walks and four strikeouts.

Tate Parker had the first four-hit contest for the Golden Eagles, including his second of the year while Blake Johnson added three hits. Dickerson and Johnson both drove in a pair of runs.

The Golden Eagles return to action Tuesday night when they travel to Pearl to meet Ole Miss at Trustmark Park. Game time is set for 6 p.m. and the Golden Eagles are the designated home team.

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