Bouncing Back From Adversity

A week ago today, the city of Hattiesburg was ravaged by an F4 tornado that ripped through the city and through the campus of Southern Miss itself. Saturday, in true Southern Miss style, the athletic program gave the entire city a lift through grit, determination, and comeback in the face of adversity.

All around Hattiesburg Saturday morning you could see sights of people working together trying to recover from a vicious tornado that ripped through the city just under a week ago.

As a city worked together to recover, an athletic program certainly did its part to bring hope and the Southern Miss spirit to the fans and the city.

On a blustery afternoon at Pete Taylor Park, it seemed the Golden Eagle baseball team would go quietly as they could only manage one hit through 5 innings.

The Missouri Tigers seemed in complete control though only clinging to a 3-1 lead, but with the Eagle bats struggling to even manage a base runner, it seemed as if Southern Miss would fall in another close low scoring game as they did so many times last season.

This isn't last season.

In the bottom of the 7th, after the Eagles had manufactured a run the inning before, Chase Fowler was hit by a pitch with one out. A fielder's choice gave them two outs, and a walk to Travis Creel set up the drama.

As Mason Robbins steps to the plate, Ryan Yuengel's 0-1 fast ball had no chance. Mason Robbins squared the offering and sent it flying over the right field wall, and the Eagles celebrated at home plate.

It was as if it clicked for this team, with all the talk of the high expectations, that this is a new year and a new team. Cameron Gianinni and Bradley Roney came in and completely shut the door, and it sent Southern Miss for an opportunity to sweep Sunday afternoon.

While the celebration was on at Pete Taylor Park, things seemed to be falling apart for the Eagle basketball team in Greenville, North Carolina.

The Golden Eagles were falling victim to a Pirate team that had the game of their lives and a barrage of 3's that East Carolina has not been able to do all year.

Akeem Richmond let all scorers with 25 points, including 8 3's. The Eagles, on the other hand, had just one.

Down 66-55 with 5:41 to play, the Eagles could have easily packed it in and prepared to head home. This is not the Golden Eagle way under Coach Tyndall, however.

Continuing to fight, on the road, without Michael Craig, the Eagles started chipping away by hitting a few jumpers, offensive rebounds, and sheer grit and determination. The Eagles fought all the way back and sent the game to overtime.

The run included a huge put back from Rashad McGill and the only three of the game for the Eagles by Jerrold Brooks.

In overtime, Southern Miss continued the momentum and lunch pail approach with Dwayne Davis leading the way. After earning a four point lead, ECU came back to hit a three to cut it to one.

Nothing would be easy this game.

After a free throw from Davis, ECU had one last chance, but threw the ball away and Southern Miss goes on to a remarkable, unprobable, come from behind win pushing them to 20 wins and an accomplishment that few thought was possible this season.

With the comeback secured for baseball and basketball, another Eagle team had one heroic play left up its sleeve.

After already earning a big win in game one of a double header Saturday, the Golden Eagle softball team had a game that came down to the last at-bat.

Down 2-1, and down to their final out, a pair of walks set the stage, just as it did for the baseball team. A single loaded the bases, and the Lady Eagles had the right player up at the right time.

MacKenzie Sher, who had gone 4-7 on the day including a nine RBI day, took a 3-1 pitch and hit a walk-off grand slam in dramatic fashion to propel the Eagles to a 4-2 win.

"Games like (the night cap) are ones that you need to really define your team," said co-head coach Jon Malgradi after the game.

"We need games like that to test our mettle from time to time and I'm proud of our young team responding the way they did. We are getting better each and every game, in our at bats, in our pitch selections, in the way we are playing defense and pitching, just all around."

The grand slam capped off what was a huge day in the athletic world for the Golden Eagles. Though it certainly could not erase the devastation from the tornado a week before, it symbolized hope and the Southern Miss fighting spirit in the face of adversity.

Rebuild, restore, recover. It is the Southern Miss way.

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