No. 2 Southern Miss Edges Marshall, 5-3

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Southern Miss left fielder Drew Carson went 4-for-4 with a double and a home run, and closer Tyler Conn pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning as the second-seeded Southern Miss baseball team defeated sixth-seeded Marshall, 5-3, in day three of the 2008 Entergy Conference USA Baseball Championship Friday evening at the new Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.

Southern Miss starter Barry Bowden (8-3) earned the victory after fanning six and allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits in six innings of work. Bowden beat Marshall in Charleston, W.Va. by a score of 5-0, allowing only two hits in four innings of work when he returned from an injury that had caused him to miss over a month of the season. USM reliever Wade Weathers allowed a pair of hits in 1.1 innings out of the bullpen. Conn, the league's leader in saves, entered the ballgame with one out in the eighth and retired the only two batters he faced in that inning.


Drew Carson of Southern Miss was 4-for-4, with a double, home run and steal of home, to lead the Golden Eagles to a 5-3 win over the Thundering Herd Friday night. If Marshall can beat Tulane Saturday morning, they will match up with USM Saturday at 5 p.m. EDT on ESPN 930 AM. courtesy of USM Athletics.

Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, junior third baseman Brandon Casamassima drew a lead-off walk off Conn, before a pinch-hit single through the left side by Kurt Lipton, who pinch-hit after missing the last five weeks with an injury, advanced him to third base. After senior Matt Helm entered to run for Lipton, true frosh outfielder Ben Jurevicius brought Marshall closer with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Casamassima and bringing the score to 5-3.

Junior shortstop Adam Yeager then singled to center field, moving Helm to second. Helm then stole third giving the Herd runners on the corners. Sophomore first baseman Josh Valle was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. Blake Sanders ran for Valle, putting speedsters at all bases. Conn registered a strikeout of junior center fielder Nate Lape before Victor Gomez tagged a 1-1 pitch to deep left field that fell just a foot short of going over the wall for the final out of the ball game.

"I thought it was right at (Drew Carson, the left fielder, who) kept going back, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh!'," said Conn. "And he kept going and going. I didn't think (Gomez) hit it that well, but he was late on the fastball. The change-up is my best pitch, and maybe I shouldn't have sped up his bat on the change-up he hit. He was late on the fast ball.

"I can call that pitch. That's my call right there. I did it and sped up his bat a little. He's going to hit it well enough." Jeff Waggoner, the Herd's Head Coach, didn't think the ball Gomez hit to end the game was just going to be short. "I thought he hit it off his front foot," said Waggoner. "I didn't think it was going out. It was a good quality change-up and he was on his front foot."

Southern Miss began the scoring in the top of the second when left fielder Drew Carson hit a towering home run to left center field that cleared the 40-foot high state-of-the-art video board beyond the left field wall. The ball traveled an estimated 410 feet, Carson's 11th of the year. The Herd tied things up in the fourth when Gomez singled to center field and advanced to third on a throwing error on senior left fielder Jeff Rowley's bunt attempt. Gomez later scored on a ground out by senior catcher Tommy Johnson.

The Golden Eagles went on top 2-1 in the top of the fifth after Carson doubled to begin the frame, advanced to third on a ground out and was singled home by Keith Winstead. Jurevicius countered USM's score when he smashed a solo home run down the left-field line that just managed to stay fair in the bottom of the fifth, tying the game 2-2. Right back came Southern Miss' when Brian Dozier put his team up for good after he blasted a long ball to lead off the sixth inning to give the Golden Eagles the lead again at 3-2.

Southern Miss added another run in the sixth on a Corey Stevens ground out that scored Chris Matesich. The Golden Eagles then pushed their lead to 5-2 when Carson doubled to lead off the ninth, was advanced to third on a sac fly from Matesich and later stole home to move the lead to 5-3. With the win, Southern Miss (40-18) moves on in the winner's bracket and will take on the winner of tomorrow's Tulane/Marshall game at 5:30 p.m. (EDT).

Golden Eagles Head Coach Corky Palmer was happy with the 40th win of the season, but more happy to avoid the loser's bracket. "I'm happy for the kids," said Palmer of the win. "It was a hard-fought game. Marshall played really well. I thought they would. It was a tough baseball game. Bowden threw well, and I'm happy with the way he threw."


Marshall junior Adam Yeager, who played for Huntington High and the University of Cincinnati before returning home in 2008 to play for the Herd, would like to match his Wednesday effort against the Green Wave when Marshall meets Tulane in an elimination game at 10 a.m. on Saturday. photo from HerdZone.com.

Marshall (27-29-1), meanwhile, will take on host Green Wave at 10 a.m. (EDT) back on Tulane's home field. The Herd won against TU on Wednesday, 10-5, when Yeager set a Marshall and C-USA Tournament record with five steals, plus scoring four runs in addition to the Herd's three home runs and a double. Senior Andrew Blain, Marshall's former day one weekend starter who has slipped to 2-5 this season, may get the start. The Herd had Steve Blevins throw a complete game in the win over TU. Straily (4-4) pitched well in allowing four runs on six hits with four strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work for the Herd. "The best thing about (Straily) is that he competes," said Waggoner. "He's tough to square up and he really knows how to pitch. Both teams fought hard...unfortunately, someone had to lose."

If Marshall can win the game with Tulane, heard on ESPN 930 AM in Huntington at 10 a.m., they will have to face Southern Miss for a second time in two days, and the second game on Saturday for MU, to advance to the Sunday playoff with the Golden Eagles. That winner would advance to the championship game at 2 p.m. (that game will be shown on CBS College Sports Network, as well as on ESPN 930 AM if the Herd is playing). Southern Miss' Palmer knows the game tomorrow will still be tough, and a loss by USM to either Marshall or Tulane would force a 7-8 a.m. game on Sunday before the afternoon championship game.

"We play the winner of the (10) o'clock game," said Palmer of the 5 p.m. game Saturday for Southern Miss against either Tulane or Marshall. "There's a long way to go. A long way to go in this tournament.

Also on Friday, No. 8 seed UAB continued to stun the higher ranked teams, as Ryan Keely's ninth inning home run gave the Blazers a 5-4 win over Houston. The Cougars were meeting the Pirates of East Carolina in Friday night's late game, after UH beat ECU on Wednesday by 5-4 in 10 innings. Tulane eliminated UCF on Friday morning, 5-3, to advance the early game with Marshall on Saturday in the loser's bracket. UAB will play the Houston-East Carolina winner at 1:30 p.m., followed by Southern Miss vs. the Marshall-Tulane winner at 5 p.m. If UAB was beat in the early game, they would play that winner again at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night to advance to the championship game.


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