|Jack Duggan, Assistant Athletic Director/Media Relations
Hattiesburg, Miss. - Shortly after Southern Miss had rallied to split Sunday's doubleheader against Samford, center fielder Jake Sandlin pointed toward the Taylor Park scoreboard to make a point.
“It was a long day, and we were getting beat early (in the second game), and I don’t mean just on the scoreboard,” Sandlin said. “We were getting punched in the face.
“But tough teams, when they come up in clutch situations, and it doesn’t matter who it is, someone’s going to find a way.”
After losing an early, five-run lead in the opener to fall 10-8 in extra innings to the Bulldogs, Southern Miss turned the tables, erasing a three-run deficit to take the second game 6-3.
“It’s about embracing the grind,” said Sandlin, who went 3-for-4 with a triple, double and single and three RBIs. “In D-I baseball, everybody’s good. You’ve just got to outlast them, make it happen.
“We lost a tough game in the first one, a tough loss, and I was a little worried about it,” Sandlin said. “We came out slow, but, at the end of the day, we got the job done, and that showed a lot of maturity.”
Sunday’s doubleheader had been made necessary after a heavy storm cell dumped up to 10 inches of rain in the Pine Belt between Thursday evening and Saturday morning.
Friday’s opener of the three-game, non-conference set was bumped to Saturday evening, a game the Golden Eagles claimed 8-2.
Sunday, Southern Miss grabbed a 7-2 lead after two innings, only to see the bats fall fallow, and the Bulldogs rally to win with two unearned runs in the top of the 10th inning.
And when the Bulldogs put up three runs in the third inning off starter Kirk McCarty in the second game, the Golden Eagles had yet to log a hit off Samford starter Connor Radcliff.
But Southern Miss (13-4) began to chip away. Third baseman Taylor Braley drove in the first run with an RBI single in the fourth, and the Golden Eagles added another when Sandlin lashed a run-scoring triple down the right field line in the fifth.
The Golden Eagles then took advantage of two mistakes by the Bulldogs (9-7). With two outs in the sixth, shortstop Nick Dawson reached second when reliever Josh Rich (0-1) threw away his bunt. Dawson moved to third when Dylan Burdeaux’s hot grounder handcuffed Samford second baseman Frankie Navarette.
Sandlin followed with an RBI-single to score Dawson, and first baseman Tim Lynch doubled off the right-center field wall to score Burdeaux and Sandlin for a 5-3 lead.
Walker Powell (2-0), who got the final out in the sixth inning with runners on second and third base, checked the Bulldogs on two hits over the final 3 1/3 innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
The Golden Eagles added a final run in the eighth on back-to-back doubles by Burdeaux and Sandlin.
“It was big,” Lynch said. “You’ve got to win at home. It doesn’t matter.
“We would have liked to have had all three, but after that first game, we could only get two, so I’m glad we got what we could.”
In the opener, Southern Miss scored just once after taking a 7-2 lead in the second inning.
Samford mashed 16 hits off starter Jake Winston and three relievers, the most hits surrendered in a game by Southern Miss this season.
The Golden Eagles erased a 2-0 deficit with their highest-scoring first inning of the season, a six-run outburst sparked by two-run singles by second baseman Storme Cooper and Burdeaux.
Chase Scott, who made a pair of sterling, diving catches in left field, gave the Golden Eagles a 7-2 lead with a solo homer in the second inning, his third of the season.
But Southern Miss managed just four hits after that.
Samford scored once on right fielder Heath Quinn’s single in the third inning and tied the game with four runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Quinn and designated hitter Austin Edens and a two-run, two-out, pinch-hit single by Jared Watson.
Samford went up 8-7 on an infield single by center fielder T.J. Dixon in the sixth, but Southern Miss tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Dawson’s hit-and-run double.
In the 10th, Southern Miss reliever Mason Walley (1-1) hit shortstop Danny Rodriguez to open the inning, and when Dawson couldn’t handle the throw at second on catcher Richard Greene’s bunt, both runners were safe.
Consecutive bunts by Navarette and Dixon brought in Rodriguez, and Greene scored on third baseman Hunter Swilling’s infield chopper to short.
Samford reliever Parker Curry (1-1) allowed just two hits and five Golden Eagle baserunners in the final five innings to pick up the win.
Swilling went 4 for 5 with a homer, double, three RBIs and three runs scored in the first game and added two more doubles with an RBI and run scored in the second game. For the day, he reached base nine times in 11 plate appearances, including two walks and a hit-by-pitch.
Sandlin was 4 for 9 on the day, with four RBIs and two runs scored, while Burdeaux had two hits, scored three runs and drove in two in the double dip.
“I think it was a good series, a good series for both teams,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said.
Southern Miss will wrap up a five-game homestand at 6 p.m. Tuesday when the University of Alabama comes to Taylor Park.