HATTIESBURG, Miss. – For second baseman Storme Cooper, the base hits have been more about quality than quantity so far in his Southern Miss baseball career.
Last season as a freshman, Cooper hit .235 with 31 hits, but still drove in 25 runs with a clutch bat that seemed to produce or set up an inordinate number of runs.
Cooper came up clutch Sunday, lacing a walk-off, run-scoring single to left field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Golden Eagles came all the way back from a seven-run deficit to clip Northeastern 8-7 before 3,302 at Pete Taylor Park.
Cooper lined a full-count slider off Northeastern reliever Nate Borges just beyond the outstretched glove of left fielder Charlie McConnell. Cooper’s second hit of the game scored USM third baseman Taylor Braley from third base with the game-winner as the Golden Eagles (3-0) rallied to sweep the season-opening series with the Huskies (0-3).
“It just seems like he gets it done every time,” said Southern Miss senior first baseman Dylan Burdeaux, who drove in three runs with a two-run single and his second home run of the season. “If somebody’s on second or third with two outs, we almost know its automatic with that guy.
“He’s huge for us. It seems like he always comes up in those situations and gets it done.”
Freshman right-hander Cody Carroll was ambushed in his Golden Eagles’ debut, pummeled for seven runs on six hits through 2 2/3 innings, including a four-run second inning and a three-run third.
NU designated hitter Nick Fanneron drove in three runs in the two innings, swatting a sacrifice fly for the Huskies’ first run and then capping the Huskies’ scoring with his second home of the series, a two-run blast to right field, to make it 7-0.
But junior right-hander Colt Smith came out of the bullpen to calm the roiling waters. He allowed a double on his first pitch to shortstop Max Burt, but then retired 11 of the next 12 batters in four innings of shutout baseball.
“What he did on this particular day was he had good downward tilt to his fastball, and throwing his secondary pitch (a cutter) for strikes,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “He really pitched down in the zone and he had a presence on the mound.
“He took the mound with the intent to keep them in check and have us come back. I just felt like that was his whole attitude.”
And the Golden Eagles’ rally began as soon as NU’s scoring stopped.
Burdeaux’s single scored Cooper and junior catcher Cole Donladson with the first two runs of a five-run third inning off Northeastern starter Kyle Murphy.
Junior right fielder Mason Irby’s single scored Burdeaux, and Irby came around on sophomore left fielder Hunter Slater’s first home run of the season, a two-run blast to right field that cut the Huskies’ lead to 7-5.
Smith and Northeastern reliever Brian Christian kept the scoreboard clean for the next three innings, until Burdeaux took Christian over the scoreboard in left-center field to pull the Golden Eagles within 7-6 to start the bottom of the seventh inning.
Irby followed with a single, moved to second on a one-out walk to Braley, then to third base on a two-out walk to freshman center fielder Matt Wallner. Christian was lifted for reliever Tyler Robinson, who uncorked a wild pitch to score Irby with the game-tying run.
Nick Sandlin (1-0) allowed just one hit over the eighth and ninth innings, striking out three Huskies, and Southern Miss capped its rally off Northeastern reliever Nate Borges (0-2) in the ninth.
Braley led off with his third base-on-balls of the game, and was sacrificed to second base by pinch hitter Tracy Hadley. Borges intentionally walked Wallner, then got Donaldson to line to center field, sending Braley to third.
With Cooper at the plate, Wallner didn’t draw a throw as he took second. With the count 3-2, Cooper turned on Borges’ slider, sending it just past and to the right of McConnell.
“I just try to do anything I can to get runners in,” said Cooper, who was mobbed by his teammates afterwards. “That’s all I try and do.
“It’s always good to end on a walk-off. It’s exciting for the team has a whole.”
Four Southern Miss pitchers did not walk a batter Sunday, while the Golden Eagles drew nine walks off Northeastern’s four pitchers.
Burdeaux, who scored two runs in each of the series’ games, finished with two hits and three RBIs. Irby also had two hits and scored twice, while Cooper finished with two singles.
Fanneron drove in three runs on two hits for Northeastern. Right fielder Cam Walsh and left fielder Mason Koppens each had a pair of hits, third baseman Scott Holzwasser scored twice.
The Golden Eagles return to action Tuesday, when they travel to Alabama for a 6 p.m., contest. The game can be seen on the SEC Network+ online or through the WATCHESPN app.