RUSTON, LA (WDAM) _ Erick Hoard and Hunter Slater each drove in a pair of runs and three University of Southern Mississippi pitchers allowed three hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings as the Golden Eagles claimed a 5-1 victory Saturday afternoon over Louisiana Tech University.
USM clinched its opening Conference USA series of the season by taking the first two games of the best-of-three series.
The Golden Eagles (10-6, 2-0 C-USA) outslugged the Bulldogs 12-9 Friday at J.C. Love Field, pounding out 16 hits.
Saturday, USM added another 14 hits to its collection, as it avenged its only conference loss of the 2018 season, when the Bulldogs took two-of-three games against the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg.
Louisiana Tech starting pitcher Logan Robbins, younger brother of former USM standout Mason Robbins, didn’t make it through the third inning, as the Golden Eagles grabbed a 4-0 after 2 ½ innings.
USM got on the board in the second inning on Danny Lynch’s RBI-single, then tacked on three more runs in the third.
Gabe Montenegro singled and Matthew Guidry walked before Slater singled to center to score Montenegro for a 2-0 lead.
After a wild pitch moved up both runners, Hoard followed with a single into right field that scored both Guidry and Slater for a 4-0 USM lead.
Matt Wallner laced a clean single through the middle, becoming the fifth consecutive Golden Eagle to reach base to start the inning.
That ended the afternoon for Robbins (1-1), who allowed seven hits and four runs over two innings, walking one while striking out two.
Brant Blaylock then pounded an offering from Quinton Logan into the left-center field gap, one-hopping the fence, but Hoard held up to see whether the ball would drop, and the long single left the bases loaded with no outs.
But USM had shot its bolt. Logan got Bryant Bowen on an infield popup, Lynch bounced into a force play at the plate and Will McGillis flew out to squelch the uprising.
USM managed to push across one last run in the sixth inning when Slater’s double capped a rally that started with two outs and re-established the Golden Eagles’ four-run lead.
It was the lone run that USM would score over the final six innings, as the Golden Eagles stranded 12 baserunners.
But the five runs were more than enough, as four USM pitchers combined to check the Bulldogs (11-7, 0-2) on seven hits, issuing three walks while striking out nine.
USM starter Stevie Powers worked into the fifth inning, allowing a run on four hits over 4 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out four.
Powers got into trouble in the second inning when he gave up a leadoff single to Steele Netterville followed by a double by Parker Bates, leaving men on second and third base with no outs.
But Powers got a strikeout, a shallow flyball and a little liner to third base to end the threat.
But with one out in the fifth inning, Powers walked Chris Clayton and Hunter Wells, losing the strike zone and throwing seven consecutive balls at one point.
Out came Powers, in came Alex Nelms, who promptly hit a batter and then walked Mason Mallard to force in a run and leave the bases loaded with one out.
But Nelms caught Netterville looking at strike three, and USM reliever Sean Tweedy finished off the inning by getting Bates to flyout.
Tweedy pitched into the eighth inning before giving way to Hunter Stanley, who went the final 1 2/3 innings.
Nelms, Tweedy and Stanley combined to allow three hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing a walk and hitting a batter while striking out four.
Tweedy (1-0) got the win, allowing three hits over 2 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out two batters.
Slater led the Golden Eagles with a double and two single while driving in two runs and scoring one.
Guidry reached base four times on a pair of singles and two walks and scored a run. Blaylock had two singles, walked once and scored a run. Hoard and Wallner each hit two singles.
Montenegro, USM’s leadoff man, singled and walked and scored two runs.
Tech’s Taylor Young singled twice and was hit by a pitch while Bates doubled twice.
The teams wrap up the three-game series at 1 p.m. Sunday.