May 29, 2009
ATLANTA – In a game that featured 11 home runs, 34 hits and 71 total bases, it was a passed ball that allowed the decisive run to score and lift Southern Miss to a 17-15 win over Elon in the first round of the NCAA Atlanta Regional baseball tournament Friday at Russ Chandler Stadium.
The Golden Eagles, 36-23 and playing in an NCAA regional for the seventh straight year, came from behind with five runs in the ninth inning of a see-saw affair in which they led 8-0 early. After working a pair of one-out walks, pinch-hitter Adam Doleac drove home the tying run with a double, then Joey Archer came home with the go-ahead run on Mark Melillo’s passed ball.
Following a pattern in which no lead was safe – not even USM’s early 8-0 margin – the Golden Eagles tacked on three more runs in the ninth with a pinch two-run homer from Kyle Maxie and a solo blast from Bo Davis to make the score 17-13.
USM would need both because Elon’s Neal Pritchard hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. The Eagles’ John Brebbia then got the final three outs. The Phoenix’ clean-up hitter, Pat Irvine, struck out for the fourth time in the game for the game’s final out.
The Golden Eagles advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. winner’s bracket game to face the winner of Friday night’s game between host Georgia Tech and Georgia State. Elon (40-17) will take on the loser of that game at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Friday’s game featured 11 home runs, and the 71 total bases were the fourth-most ever in an NCAA Tournament game.
Davis finished the game with two homers and four RBI, and Archer went 4-for-4 with four RBI to lead USM’s attack. Collin Cargill, the Golden Eagles’ fifth pitcher of the game, earned the win to improve to 4-3 despite giving up three runs and five hits in 1-2/3 innings.
Bennett Davis and Harry Austin led Elon with four hits apiece. Davis belted three home runs, becoming the sixth player in NCAA Tournament history to hit three or more in a game, scored four runs and drove in four. Chase Austin drove in five runs with a home run, a single and a sacrifice fly for Elon.
Thomas Girdwood, the Phoenix’ closer, was tagged with the loss after pitching the ninth inning and surrendering four of the five runs.
Elon, runner-up in the Southern Conference and playing in its fourth NCAA tournament, scored six of its runs with two out.
Southern Miss got out of the gate early, scoring eight times on seven hits in the second inning. Three of the hits were home runs — a three-run blast by Bo Davis, a two-run shot by Kameron Brunty and a solo homer by Corey Stevens in the span of four batters.
Elon remained steadfast, getting one run back on a solo homer by Bennett Davis in the second and an RBI single from Chase Austin in the third. The Phoenix made it a game again with three runs in the fourth, getting a run-scoring single from Dallas Tarleton and a two-run single from Harry Austin to close the gap to 8-5.
Archer homered for USM to make it 9-5 in the fifth, but Elon got the run right back in its half of the frame on Davis’ second homer of the game.
Elon finally drew even in the sixth, putting two men on with two out before Chase Austin greeted USM reliever Josh Fields with his 23rd homer of the year, knotting the game at 9-9.
The Golden Eagles recaptured the lead quickly, scoring three times on three hits, including Archer’s RBI single, and an Elon error in the seventh to take a 12-9 lead.
Bennett Davis got one run back for Elon in its half of the seventh with his leadoff home run, then capped a three-run eighth for the Phoenix with a run-scoring single that put his team ahead, 13-12.
Despite the 8-run cushion he had, Southern Miss starter Todd McInnis could not last long enough to earn the win. The Conference USA Pitcher of the Year was lifted after surrendering five runs and six in 3-2/3 innings.
Elon starter Tom Porter lasted just 1-2/3 innings after giving up eight runs and seven hits, including three homers.