Long ball helps Southern Miss clinch series over Georgia Southern after splitting Saturday’s doubleheader

HATTIESBURG, Ms – The long ball helped Southern Miss more after the Golden Eagles earned their first-ever Sun Belt series win over Georgia Southern after splitting Saturday’s doubleheader. Both games saw a significant amount of offense from both teams, with Southern Miss coming away with a 9-7 victory in game one and Georgia Southern coming away with a 10-8 victory in game two. 

“I liked the way offensively we came out today and scored runs, and we continued to score them throughout the day,” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said. 

After escaping Friday night’s game with a 4-3 win, the Golden Eagles needed one of the two games on Saturday to clinch the series against a Georgia Southern ball club that hosted an NCAA Regional last season. The visiting Eagles jumped ahead first in the top of the first of Game 1 to take a 1-0 lead. Danny Lynch tied the game in the second inning by batting in a run via sac-fly. In the third, it was all Southern Miss. Dustin Dickerson knocked his second home run of the season out to left field over the sign out there, a 377-foot blast. 

“I got a 3-2 count and I put a good swing on an inside fastball and hit me a home run.” Dickerson said. 

Dickerson’s home run would instigate a hit party for Southern Miss in the inning as they batted through the lineup and pushed across four runs in the inning to take a 5-1 lead. However, Georgia Southern would not go away as they showed all weekend and, over the course of the middle innings, clawed their way back into the game. They scored five unanswered runs to take a 7-6 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Unfortunately for them, hitting is contagious, as they say, and Southern Miss showed it in the eighth. After Lynch was hit by a pitch and Dickerson was intentionally walked, Slade Wilks came to the plate. If you are an Eagle fan, there is probably no one else you would rather have there at bat than him with the game on the line. 

Wilks delivered with a three-run moonshot to right field, 428 feet, to take the lead for good at 9-7. 

“I knew he was going to stay with his slider, that’s his best pitch if you look at percentages. I just waited on a pitch I could hit, and I handled it.’ Wilks said. 

After play shenanigans

When Wilks hit his home run, he flipped his bat right in front of the Georgia Southern dugout before rounding the bases. Then, at home plate, Dustin Dickerson and Bryce Fowler got into a scrum with the Georgia Southern catcher, this caused both benches to clear, and players had to be pulled away. 

“He [the catcher] pushed one of our guys, and I’m very passionate about how I play and my brothers as well so that wasn’t ok with me. So, I guess I kind of retaliated a little bit,” Dickerson said. 

After everything was cleared out, it was obvious there needed to be ejections for both squads. The Georgia Southern catcher was ejected, and then puzzlingly, Slade Wilks was thrown out for Southern Miss even though he was not near the altercation. But after the game, the umpires reviewed the tapes and decided to reverse the ejection and instead eject Fowler allowing Wilks to play in game two and not serve the one-game suspension if ejected.

“I hit the homer, never said anything to their dugout or anything, came around, touched home and then I was in the dugout and then the whole scram started, or whatever that was.” Wilks said. “I didn’t know that [they could reverse the ejection], I was in street clothes.”

Berry did not add much other than glad the officials got it right. 

“I just think it was emotions. I think Slade got a little crazy with the bat flip but that’s just the way people are going to react,” Berry said. 

After everything was figured out, Southern Miss went on in the ninth, protected the lead, and won the game 9-7. Everyone took a breath for 45ish minutes, and then Nikko Mazza approached the mound and started the second game of the day. 

This time, Southern Miss struck first, thanks to a Tate Parker solo shot to left field for his second home run of the season. Parker has been coming along for Southern Miss as of late. He is quietly batting a .354 and went 4-5 in the second game. On top of that, he was dealing with some muscle strain during the entire game, he said he tore his oblique, but Berry said that was not the case.

“I tweaked it last night. When I was in left field today in game one, dude hit a double I came back and tore it, it was pretty much in pain all game.” Parker said. 

He was asked even with the pain, he still managed four hits and a home run, he responded with simply: “Hey. Gotta be tough.” 

“I don’t think he tore his oblique, if he tore his oblique he wouldn’t be able to swing,” Berry said. “I think he’s probably got a strain in there and for that you have to credit him for the way he’s swinging the bat.” 

Unfortunately for Southern Miss, even with all the hits and runs they could produce, they could not hold the lead in the ninth like the previous game. They were up 8-7 going into the ninth, but a pair of home runs by Georgia Southern pushed them out in front for good, 10-8. The long ball helped them win one game, but it helped Southern Miss win the series. Mazza was taken out of the game in the third inning for the second straight game, which is concerning for Golden Eagle fans. 

“He’s kind of hitting a wall there in the third inning. I don’t really know what the problem is there. The walks certainly hurt him.” Berry said. 

What is next for Southern Miss? 

Well, it is a date with the Ole Miss Rebels on Tuesday night in Pearl, MS. If anything will get Southern Miss fans up for that game, it is the fact that the offense this weekend showed its potential. And it will need every bit of that if they want to stand a chance against that Rebel lineup.

“I feel like they should [have confidence]. I feel like they are taking pitches that they need to be taking, not swinging at for the most part. Obviously, when you have some run production like we did, hopefully that gets us jump started this week.” Berry said. 

The contest is slated for a first pitch of 6 PM. 

Game 1

Christopher Sargent would tell you that he has not been happy with how the season has started for him. However, tonight His homer in the second proved to be the difference in the game after Southern Miss opened the series against Georgia Southern with a 4-3 win. Sargent, who has hit 37 home runs in the past two seasons, only has three this season (including tonight.) His slump has hurt Southern Miss’s lineup, and head coach Scott Berry and hitting coach Travis Creel are trying everything to get him going.

This includes letting him sit on Tuesday night in New Orleans to clear his mind, which he did by going to the bullpen and watching the pitches.

“We’ve been doing a thing where I have watched our pitchers pitch when they throw bullpen. Just to stand in and see the ball, Coach Berry really believes that’s what best for me. We did that today before the game, and Coach Berry was really happy with the way I’ve been trying to get the extra work in.” Sargent said.

That extra work saw Sargent blast a 426-foot home run in the bottom of the second inning to give Southern Miss a 1-0 lead. Berry knows how important Sargent is to the lineup and how vital his batting in the cleanup spot is for this team going forward.

“If we can get him (Sargent) going, that’s going to be the key. Nobody feels for him more than I do. The guy has hit 37 home runs in the past two years, he’s hit three this year, he’s struggled. But he’s fighting to get out of it, and I was glad to see him get a couple of hits tonight.” Berry said.

He is the key going forward for the lineup, and Berry says he “trusts” him to bat in the cleanup spot because of what he has proved in the past.

Southern Miss got out in front early in the bottom of the second thanks to Sargent’s bomb and added to the lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Slade Wilks hit a solo home run to the opposite field for his sixth of the year and a 2-0 lead. Wilks has been the hottest bat for the Golden Eagles this season, and fans can only imagine what this lineup will begin to deliver if Sargent and Wilks are hot.

Southern Miss added another run in that inning, as Sargent would come in and score via a wild pitch by Georgia Southern.

Wilks came up with another RBI in the fifth, which gave Southern Miss a 4-0 lead. That is his 14th RBI this season.

Georgia Southern tried to rally late, with a run in the eighth and two in the ninth. Golden Eagle fans held their breath on the final out. Jesse Sherrill blasted a ball deep to RF, which Reece Ewing made a circus grab to close the game.

“The game ended on a great play by Reece Ewing that was not easy to make, I can assure you. If he doesn’t make that play we might not be standing here, but still playing.” Berry said.

Southern Miss also got a huge boost from their preseason all-American ace Tanner Hall. Hall’s final line was 5.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 K, 85 TP.

The ten strikeouts are a season-high for Hall.

“I feel like my changeup lately just hasn’t been as consistent and tonight was a night where I found it. I found the accuracy on it, and could just throw it wherever I want it. I made a few adjustments in the bullpen this week to try and fix my overall strike percentage because that’s where I feel I was really hurting myself which was just giving up freebees, which isn’t a part of my identity.” Hall said.

Golden Eagle fans know what Hall brings to the table when he is pitching at his best, and that has not been the case to start this season. But tonight, he showed why teams should still fear his presence on the mound.

Southern Miss takes on Georgia Southern again tomorrow in a doubleheader, with the first game slated for a 1 PM first pitch