BATON ROUGE, La. - After falling into the elimination bracket Saturday night at the Baton Rouge Regional, University of Southern Mississippi coach Scott Berry vowed that the Golden Eagles would do all they could to reach Sunday’s championship round.
“There’s not one person in this program or on this team who’s ready to go home,” Berry said Saturday night. “I know that. So, with that being said, I firmly expect our guys to go out there and compete, and do everything we can to make that 8 o’clock game (Sunday).”
And that’s exactly what the Golden Eagles did.
Matt Guidry’s three-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning pulled USM within striking distance and Gabe Montenegro’s two-run single capped a walk-off, four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning to snatch a 13-12 victory from the Sun Devils.
Down 4-0 after one inning and trailing by eight runs halfway through the game, the Golden Eagles scored four runs in the fifth inning and then a combined seven runs in their final two final two at-bats to pull off one of the more improbable victories in program history.
Montenegro, who collected a career-high five hits, was mobbed between first and second base after the first walk-off hit of his career. It was the fifth time USM had won a game this season in its final at-bats.
“To go left on left, and deliver, just shows the player he is and the player he has been,” Berry said of Montenegro. “He loves baseball. He’s absolutely ate up with it, and it shows.”
With that, as Berry had hoped, third-seeded USM (40-20) moved into the regional’s championship round to face 13th-ranked and top-seeded Louisiana State University (39-24) at 8 p.m. Sunday.
It marked the fourth consecutive season that the Golden Eagles have won at least 40 games under Berry and became USM’s 10th season with 40 wins in the past two decades.
The second-seeded Sun Devils (38-19), who opened the regional with a 15-3 loss Friday to USM, saw their season come to an end.
ASU jumped all over USM starter Stevie Powers, sending 10 batters to the plate and grabbing a 4-0 lead.
The Sun Devils tacked on another run in the second before Matt Wallner got the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard by leading off the bottom of the inning with his 23rd home run of the season.
Wallner, the program’s all-time home run leader, tied four others atop the single-season chart, including Fred Cooley (1989); Bill Selby (1992); Jeff Cook (2003); and Clint King (2003).
USM added another run in the third inning when Montenegro doubled and scored on Guidry’s single.
ASU scored an unearned run in the fourth inning then took a 10-2 lead in the top of the fifth inning on run scoring doubles by Trevor Hauver and Spencer Torkelson and a two-run single from Alika Williams.
But USM answered back, scoring four times in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-run double by Bryant Bowen and two-run single by Erick Hoard.
Tokelson pushed the lead back out to six runs, 12-6, with his 23rd homer of the year, a two-run shot to right field in the sixth inning.
Those were the final runs the Sun Devils would score.
Arizona State starter Boyd Vander Kooi got the first two outs of the eighth inning before hitting Storme Cooper and surrendering a single to Montenegro.
Brady Corrigan relieved, and Guidry took his first pitch over the fence in right-center field for a three-run home run to get USM with 12-9.
“It’s all about momentum,” Berry said.
Hunter Stanley, who set down the last seven batters he faced, gave way to Brant Blaylock (2-1) for the ninth inning. Blaylock allowed only a walk in an adventurous final frame, and USM went to work in the bottom of the inning.
Wallner and Bowen singled off Corrigan to start the ninth inning. That brought Blake Burzell in from the bullpen and for his second consecutive regional appearance against USM, he got no one out.
Burzell (5-1) walked Hoard on four pitches to load the bases, then hit Hunter LeBlanc on a full count to force in a run and still leave the bases loaded with no outs.
Out went Burzell and in came left-hander Chaz Montoya.
Danny Lynch hit a deep fly to right field to score pinch-runner Cole Donaldson and pull USM within 12-11. The flyout also moved up Blaylock, who had come in to pinch-run for Hoard.
LeBlanc moved to second on a wild pitch while Montoya was in process of striking out Cooper for the second out.
Montenegro took two balls, missed an inside fastball but then sent a hot grounder into right field that scored Blaylock with tying run and LaBlanc with the walkoff.
Montenegro finished 5-of-6 with a double and four singles and scored three runs.
Guidry, who smacked a grand slam Saturday night against LSU, extended his “reached base safely” streak to 55 with his homer and single.
Bowen added four hits and two RBIs and Hoard had two hits and two RBIs.
Wallner, who walked twice, had two hits and scored three times.
For ASU, Torkelson smacked a home run, double and single, walked once, scored four runs and drove in three.
Catcher Lyle Lin also had three hits and drove in a pair of runs. Hauver and Williams each had two hits and scored two runs, while Williams also drove in three runs.
M will now play Louisiana State University at 8 p.m.