HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - So, after driving in the game-winning run in a walk-off victory in the first game of a Conference USA doubleheader, what can one do for an encore?
Well, if one happens to be University of Southern Mississippi catcher/designated hitter Bryant Bowen, one simply:
- Goes 4-for-4, including a home run
- Drives in four, including the game-tying run
- Sets up what will prove to be the game-winning run in an 11-10 comeback victory over Marshall University.
“What a weekend that young man had,” USM coach Scott Berry said.
Bowen, who extended his team-best hitting streak to 13 games, went 7-of-13 (.538) with six runs scored, seven runs batted in and two walks. Among his hits were a home run and double.
Bowen’s first hit in the first game turned out to be USM’s last at-bat of the game, as his sharp single to left field brought home Gabe Montenegro from third base in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 4-3 victory.
Then came the second game performance that helped the Golden Eagles (20-9, 10-2 C-USA) not only sweep Saturday’s doubleheader but sweep all three games of the weekend series at Pete Taylor Park.
“The thing that I was most pleased with our guys was not being satisfied after winning the series in the first game (Saturday) and realizing and understanding that we’d created for ourselves,” Berry said.
Marshall (18-13, 6-6), which led at some point in all three games this weekend, continued to find tough times in Hattiesburg.
In 27 games played at Pete Taylor Park, the Thundering Herd only has won twice.
But Marshall gave itself a chance in Saturday’s second game, Marshall erased a 5-3 deficit, scoring seven times in the top of the sixth inning to grab a 10-5 lead.
Bowen’s fifth home run of the season, a two-run blast high off the scoreboard in left-center field, highlighted a four-run bottom of the sixth inning that got the Golden Eagles back within 10-9.
In the seventh, Montenegro doubled with one out and Hunter Slater walked with two outs. Bowen then lined a hard hopper through Marshall third baseman Raul Cabrera that sent Montenegro home with the game-tying run and Slater to third base.
With Matt Wallner at the plate and Cole Donaldson running for Bowen at first, USM pulled off the back end of double steal, with Slater coming across with the winning run before Donaldson was tagged out in a rundown between first and second base.
J.C. Keys picked up his third save of the season, allowing just one hit while striking out four in two scoreless innings.
As it had in all three games this weekend, Marshall broke out on top in the first inning, grabbing a 1-0 lead on Zach Inskeep’s runs-scoring single.
USM came back in the bottom of the first inning, scoring on a run-scoring single by Bowen and Wallner’s fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot to right field, for a 3-1 lead.
Inskeep’s second RBI-single narrowed the margin to 3-2 in the third inning, but USM added two more runs on Hunter LeBlanc’s run-scoring grounder and Danny Lynch’s single.
Peralta’s single in the fifth inning pulled Marshall within 5-3 before the Herd thundered through four Golden Eagles’ pitchers, scoring seven times.
Center fielder Erik Rodriguez had the biggest blow, a bases-clearing, three run triple. Catcher Rey Pastrana and left fielder Tucker Linder each hit runs scoring singles while second baseman Geordon Blanton forced in a run on a bases-loaded walk.
But USM answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning, including Slater’s run-scoring double and Bowen’s two-run homer. Brant Blaylock scored the fourth run on a wild pitch.
That got USM within a run and set up the fireworks of the following inning.
Hunter Stanley (3-0) allowed a hit in 1 1/3 innings, striking out one. Robert Kwiatkowski (0-2) took the loss, allowing two runs on a hit in an inning, he walked and struck out.
USM will travel to Trustmark Park in Pearl to take on the University of Mississippi at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Montenegro, who had been struggling of late at the plate, led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a triple to the deepest part of Pete Taylor Park.
Bowen, arguably USM’s hottest hitter over the past two weeks, strode to the plate two intentional walks later and brought Montenegro home with a single to left to give the Golden Eagles the walk-off win in the first game of the doubleheader.
For a second consecutive game, Marshall took the early lead. Linder led off the second inning with his fifth home run of the season and Peralta added a sacrifice fly in the third inning.
Both runs came off USM starter Stevie Powers, who had been sidelined since March 16 with an oblique muscle strain. Powers allowed five hits over five innings, walking one and striking out two.
USM took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning with benefit of one hit. Donaldson singled to start the inning, and then beat the throw to second on a bunt by Will McGillis. After an out, three different Marshall pitchers walked three consecutive Golden Eagles to tie the game 2-2.
When Marshall reliever Michael Guerreo uncorked a wild pitch, USM led 3-2.
Marshall quickly tied the score, with Peralta leading off the eighth inning with his third home run of the season, setting up the dramatics in the bottom of the ninth.
Montenegro, who had managed just two hits in his previous five games, lead off the inning with a long, lined flyball to dead center, allowing him to circle the bases for his fourth triple of the year.
Marshall then chose to intentionally walk both Matt Guidry and Slater to set up a force at home, but Bowen foiled that strategy by lining a single through the hole and into left field. Bowen extended his team-best hitting streak to 12 games.
Sean Tweedy (5-0) picked up the win, allowing two hits over 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Guerreo (1-1)
Donaldson, who had been sidelined since March 24 with a neck issue, had two hits in his return. Linder and Pastrana had two hits apiece for the Herd.