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Golden Eagles Drop C-USA Tourney Opener to Memphis

Ashley Graeter

May 23, 2012

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PEARL, Miss. (Conference USA) - Memphis designated hitter Eli Hynes went 2-for-4, including a 12-pitch double to start a nine-run seventh inning, as the fifth-seeded Tigers defeated No. 4 seed Southern Miss, 14-3, in a 10-run-rule-shortened eight-inning contest in game one of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship presented by Trustmark on Wednesday at Trustmark Park.

Each of Memphis' top five hitters tallied at least two hits, including a 3-for-5 performance by left fielder Adam McClain.

Southern Miss fell to 30-24 overall and will face Houston at 3 p.m., Thursday, while the Tigers improved to 30-26 on the year and will take on top-seeded Rice on Thursday at 7 p.m.

With his team trailing 3-2 after six innings, Hynes stepped to the plate and eventually won a dogfight with Southern Miss starter Andrew Pierce with a leadoff double to the gap in left center. After plunking right fielder Derrick Thomas, Pierce was lifted in favor of Cody Livingston, but the southpaw walked a batter and then hit a batter to allow Memphis to tie the score.

Right-hander James McMahon replaced Livingston and promptly tossed a wild pitch which allowed Thomas to score what proved to be the winning run. Following a walk by centerfielder Ford Wilson reloaded the bases, catcher Keaton Aldridge singled to make it 5-3. Shortstop Ethan Gross followed with an RBI-single of his own, and following a strikeout, McClain kept the ball rolling for the Tigers with a run-scoring base hit up the middle. Aldridge later scored on a wild pitch, Hynes had his second hit of the inning with an RBI-single to center and Rich singled up the middle two hitters later to make it a seven-run contest.

A third pitching change - this time Matt Warren for McMahon - resulted in more runs for Memphis as pinch-hitter Tucker Tubbs capped the nine-run inning with an RBI-single through the left side of the infield.

Southern Miss had a chance to cut into the deficit in the home half of the seventh, and Memphis made the lost opportunity hurt as Thomas roped a two-out, three-run double down the left-field line in the eighth to account for the final score.

Lost in the excitement of the Tigers' offensive explosion in the late innings was a solid pitching performance by starter Sam Moll. Moll (5-5) went 6.0 solid innings for Memphis, giving up three runs on nine hits and four walks while striking out a pair. Patrick Bailey went the final two frames for the Tigers, scattering four hits to go with a strikeout.

Pierce (7-4) was saddled with the loss for Southern Miss after allowing four runs on five hits and a walk while striking out two in six-plus innings of work. Livingston gave up a pair of runs without recording an out while McMahon and Warren gave up five and three runs, respectively.

Following two scoreless innings to open the ballgame, Memphis drew first blood when Wilson drew a leadoff walk and scored on a two-run homer off the bat of Wilson. ­

Southern Miss got a run back in the bottom of the third as Dillon Day led off the frame with a walk and Michael Sterling was called safe at first on a bang-bang double-play attempt on a ground-ball to third. Sterling's hustle down the line proved to be big for the Golden Eagles as he moved to third on a single off the bat of Ashley Greater and came around to touch the paystation on an RBI-single to left by Blake Brown.

Two innings later, the Golden Eagles plated two more runs courtesy of doubles by Blake Brown and T.J. Rich, but that would be the final tallies of the day for Southern Miss. The Eagles had opportunities to add runs before and after the fifth only to see Moll and Bailey deny them on several occasions. For the day, Southern Miss left 13 runners on base.

Shortstop Ashley Graeter led a 13-hit Southern Miss attack with three safeties in four at-bats. He was one of four Golden Eagles' players to post a multiple-hit outing as Brown, Mason Robbins and Bradley Roney each tallied a pair of hits.

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