Southern Miss Closes Out Year With 4-2 Win over Rice

Go C-USA! Blake Brown
Blake Brown

May 26, 2012

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At first glance, it would appear as if Southern Miss's Blake Brown had a tough day at the plate as the ledger reads 0-for-3 for his offensive performance. With the score tied at 2-all and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, however, the Golden Eagle first baseman had an at-bat for the ages.

After falling behind 2-0 and facing the reigning National Player of the Week in Rice reliever Tyler Duffey, Brown battled back to make the count go full and drew a 10-pitch walk to help lift Southern Miss to a 4-2 upset of the top-seeded Owls in day four of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship on Saturday at Trustmark Park.

The Golden Eagles tacked on another run in the seventh courtesy of an RBI-single to left off the bat of third baseman Bradley Rooney, and reliever Cody Livingston - who entered the game in the top of the frame with two out and a runner at second base - retired the next six Rice batters to step into the box to close out the ballgame.

With the win, Southern Miss improves to 32-24 and closes out the 2012 season on a high note after winning seven of its last nine ballgames. Rice, meanwhile, falls to 40-17 on the year and will learn of its postseason destination when the NCAA Selection Committee announces the 64-team postseason field.

Livingston (3-1) earned the victory after striking out a pair in 2.1 perfect innings out of the bullpen. His effort, combined with fellow reliever Chase Horn, helped the Golden Eagles allow just two base runners - one on a fielders' choice and another via hit by pitch - over the final 3.2 innings. Southern Miss starter Mason Robbins had a solid outing, allowing two runs on four hits and a pair of walks while striking out five.

The Golden Eagles played flawless defense and made a handful of highlight-reel plays in the field, including a stellar play by Roney on a swinging-bunt grounder by Rice first baseman J.T. Chargois to record the final out of the eighth. Right fielder Michael Sterling and shortstop Ashley Graeter led an eight-hit Southern Miss attack with two apiece.

Rice got on the board early as Chargois sparked a two-out rally in the top of the first with a double down the right field line and scored one at-bat later when right fielder Jeremy Rathjen laced an RBI-single to center.

Owls' starting pitcher Matthew Reckling kept the USM offense at bat over the first four innings, pitching his way out of a two-on and nobody out jam in the first and around a pair of back-to-back, two-out singles in the third. In the fifth, however, the Golden Eagles finally broke through as centerfielder Dillon Day was plunked with two out, advanced to second on a wild pitch and tied the contest at 1-all on Sterling's RBI-single up the middle.

Reckling drilled Graeter to move Sterling into scoring position, and Taylor Wall came out of the bullpen to try and put out the fire. The Golden Eagles greeting the Rice reliever rudely as designated hitter Mason Robbins roped an RBI-double down the right field line to put his team on top, 2-1.

The lead did not last long as Rice second baseman Christian Stringer opened the sixth with an infield single to short, stole second and scored on another Chargois RBI-single. Southern Miss went quietly in the home half of the frame, but went ahead for good in the seventh.

Nine-hole hitter Austin Roussel sparked what proved to be the winning inning with a leadoff single and Day walked, but Sterling's sacrifice bunt attempt went awry and saw the lead runner get thrown out at third. Duffey came in for Wall at that point and Graeter loaded the bases with an infield single to second to set up Brown's game-deciding plate appearance.

Wall (6-4) was tagged with the loss after giving up two runs on a pair of hits and a walk in 1.2 innings of work. Reckling gave up a pair of runs on four hits and two walks to go with five strikeouts during his time on the hill, and Duffey finished the day allowing two hits, one walk and a strikeout.



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