May 24, 2012
After watching the first nine innings of a back-and-forth ballgame, Austin Roussel came off the bench to deliver a pinch-hit RBI single to lift fourth-seeded Southern Miss to an 8-7, 10-inning win over No. 8 seed Houston in day two of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship on Thursday at Trustmark Park.
After seeing the Cougars bounce back from deficits of 5-1 and 7-5 in the seventh and ninth innings, respectively, to tie the score each time, Southern Miss went ahead for good in the 10th as third baseman Bradley Rooney reached via lead-off walk and left fielder Kameron Brunty hit a one-out single through the right side of the infield to put runners on the corners. From there, Roussel hit a ground ball up the middle that Houston shortstop Jake Runte fielded but could not make a play on to account for the final score.
Houston put the tying run on base in the home half of the inning as Runte drew a one-out walk, but Chase Horn - who turned 23 on Thursday - celebrated his birthday in style by coming out of the bullpen to inducing a pair of fly balls to left for the final two outs and his first save of the year.
With the win, Southern Miss improves to 31-24 on the year and keeps chances of reaching the C-USA Championship title game alive. The Golden Eagles will need to win their pod-play finale on Saturday against Rice, have the Owls drop their second-round game to Memphis later on tonight and have Houston defeat Memphis on Friday. Houston, meanwhile, falls to 17-35-1 on the year and will wrap up its 2012 season on Friday against Memphis.
Both teams tallied 13 hits in the extra-inning affair and Houston centerfielder Landon Appling tied a C-USA Championship single-game record (held by six others) with five hits after going 5-for-6 with three runs scored and an RBI. Southern Miss right fielder Michael Sterling was a perfect 4-for-4 with a pair of RBI and two runs scored to pace the Golden Eagle offense.
After a pair of scoreless innings, Southern Miss drew first blood in the ballgame in the third as Brunty was hit by a pitch and catcher Chase Fowler walked, and the pair scored two at-bats later when Sterling laced a two-run single up the middle. Shortstop Ashley Graeter followed with a run-scoring single of his own to stake USM to a 3-0 lead, and the Golden Eagles added a run in the top of the sixth when designated hitter Mason Robbins plated Sterling with a sacrifice fly to left.
Houston got on the board in the bottom of the sixth when Appling singled, moved to third and scored on a wild pitch, but Southern Miss got the run back in the top of the seventh as second baseman Isaac Rodriguez hit a leadoff single, moved to second on a wild pitch and came around to touch the paystation on a one-out RBI-single by centerfielder Dillon Day.
Undaunted, the Cougars roared back into the game in the bottom of the stanza Appling plated right fielder Price Jacobs with a single through the left side of the infield, left fielder Michael Pyeatt drove in third baseman Codey Morehouse and Runte with a base hit to shallow center, and second baseman Chase Jensen posted the game-tying RBI with a double down the right-field line.
Southern Miss reclaimed the lead in the eighth when first baseman Blake Brown scored on an RBI-fielders' choice groundout off the bat of Brunty and added what appeared to be an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Day scored on a sacrifice fly by Graeter to make it 7-5.
Houston, however, refused to go away quietly. Appling posted his record-tying fifth hit with a lead off single and Pyeatt and Jensen followed with a safety to left and a bunt that fell just beyond the outstretched arm of a diving Roney - who took the mound to in the seventh. Appling cut the deficit to one on a wild pitch and first baseman Jacob Lueneburg set up the extra inning with a sacrifice fly to left.
Roney (2-1) earned the victory after giving up a pair of runs on three hits and a trio of walks while striking out four in 3.0 innings of relief. Horn retired the only two batters he faced to claim the save. Mo Wiley (2-2), the second of three Houston pitchers to toe the rubber on Thursday, was tagged with the loss after allowing three runs on as many hits and walks while fanning a trio in 2.2 frames out of the bullpen.