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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Baseball

Cougars attempt to get back on track


Austin Gracey and the Cougars hit the road with a bad taste in their mouths after Wednesday’s walk-off loss to Lamar and will now have to contend with a Southern Miss squad intent on finishing the season strong.| Justin Flores/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars have routinely had to bounce back from rough games this year, but their resolve will be tested when they begin a three-game series at 6:30 p.m. today against Conference USA foe Southern Miss. in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The Cougars will try to put the memory of Lamar pinch hitter Kevin Roebuck delivering a walk-off two-run homer Wednesday behind them and not let that 7-6 loss affect them moving forward.

“They get a win with one swing of the bat; that’s probably the toughest way to lose a game,” head coach Rayner Noble said.

Noble said the key to handling this situation is to not let it affect you in the next game.

“What you do is try and put it behind you and you try to move on. It’s all about what you do in the next ball game,” Noble said. “You just try and get past this. Things happen, you try to settle this with a good attitude and you go on. That’s what you do.”

The Cougars have had their struggles, and preseason favorite Rice played inconsistently during the first part of the season. But the most disappointing C-USA team this year has been Southern Miss, which is 18-17 overall and 2-7 in league play, good enough for last place.

Last year, Southern Miss went 40-26 and wound up losing 8-6 to Rice in the championship game of the C-USA tournament.

In the NCAA super regional round, the Golden Eagles swept Florida and made it to the College World Series. Even though it lost both games to Texas and North Carolina, Southern Miss was the surprise of the tournament.

This season, the Golden Eagles hired Scott Berry, who served as pitching coach for nine years under former head coach Corky Palmer, who retired after last season. For the first month of the season, the Golden Eagles picked up where they left off.

The Golden Eagles went 12-4, including a five-game winning streak. Since that streak ended March 17 against Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss has gone 6-13.

When that happens, the culprit is usually pitching, and that was the case with the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss allowed at least 10 runs in five games during the latter stretch. The Golden Eagles have allowed fewer than three runs only three times. Despite hitting .311 and 40 home runs and posting a .973 fielding percentage, the Golden Eagles’ team ERA is 5.76.

Still, Noble expects Southern Miss to bring its ‘A’ game this weekend.

“I think it’s going to be a knock-down drag-out,” Noble said. “They’re in last place in the conference right now, and they know they need to start picking up the pace.”

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