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Five-run fifth lifts No. 6 Southern Miss to 6-3 series-clinching victory over Rice Saturday afternoon

(WLBT Sports)
Published: Apr. 23, 2022 at 9:08 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (USM Athletics) - No. 6 Southern Miss erased an early deficit with a five-run fifth to capture a 6-3 series-clinching victory over Rice Saturday afternoon at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field.

The Golden Eagles (31-8 overall, 15-2 C-USA) kept their three-game lead atop the league standings by winning the 13th-game in a row and for the 21st time over the last 23 contests. The current win streak ties for the second-longest in school history as the program also did it in 1995 and 2015.

The 31-8 record also established the best 39-game start in the program’s history, besting the previous mark of 30-9 which happened in both the 2004 and 2011 seasons.

Down 3-1 in the fifth, Will McGillis and Charlie Fisher opened the frame with consecutive doubles. Fischer’s double, which bounced over the boundary wall down the left field line, scored McGillis. Blake Johnson then followed with a home run off the scoreboard in left center for his first shot of the year.

After a strikeout for the first out in the frame, Dustin Dickerson singled and Reece Ewing was hit by pitch. A groundout moved up the runners, before Gabe Montenegro complete the scoring with a two-run single to center.

The teams initially traded runs in the second – Rice on a Justin Long run-scoring single and Southern Miss on Will McGillis’ 10th home run of the year – before the Owls jumped on Golden Eagle starter Hunter Riggins for two runs in the third. Riggins walked the first two batters before Austin Bulman’s drive to right was dropped by Carson Paetow to bring in the visitor’s first run. Aaron Smigelski then knocked in the Owls final run with a single later in the frame to end Riggins’ outing.

The Golden Eagles then went to Isaiah Rhodes with the bases loaded and no outs.

Rhodes promptly got a pop fly on the infield, before notching a strikeout and comebacker in which he threw the runner out to get out of the jam.

After Riggins went two-plus innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts, Rhodes hurled the next three frames to secure the victory and improve to 3-0. He limited the Owls to a hit and two walks with six strikeouts.

A total of three Golden Eagle relievers did not allow a run over the final seven innings as Drew Boyd added two scoreless frames with a walk and three strikeouts, while Dalton Rogers fanned three over the final two innings to capture his third save.

Rice starter Alex DeLeon allowed five runs over 4 1/3 innings on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts to suffer the loss and fall to 2-3.

The final game of the series is set for 1 p.m., Sunday.

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