Toppers drop series to Southern Miss in ‘game of inches’

Hilltopper senior Brandon Allen fires a pitch against Southern Miss at Nick Denes Field, Saturday, April 11. Nick Wagner/HERALD

John Reecer

The Hilltoppers lost two of three conference games against Southern Miss this past weekend at Nick Denes Field and dropped to seventh place in the Conference USA rankings. 

After winning the first game of the series 5-0 on Friday, Southern Miss defeated WKU (16-16) in a blowout with a score of 15-3 on Saturday. The Golden Eagles would then go on to win the series on Sunday with a score of 6-3. 

“It’s a game of inches,” Head Coach Matt Myers said. “The series came down to literally a couple of pitches today, and that’s just baseball. When you are playing clean baseball against good teams that’s what it usually comes down to. I’m not mad at how we played. We just came up short.” 

Friday, WKU started the series on a high note, a shutout highlighted by the performances of junior pitcher John Harman and redshirt sophomore pitcher Kevin Elder on the mound. The duo combined to give up just one hit on the day and nine strikeouts as Harman earned the win and Elder earned the save. 

“I thought that John Harman was outstanding,” Myers said. “I’m really proud of how he performed with him getting a late notice on the start. Kevin Elder has got a lot of confidence, and he was outstanding tonight. He really saved the pitching staff with his unbelievable play.”  

Senior shortstop Cody Wofford and junior third baseman Danny Hudzina provided the energy on offense. Wofford hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning and Hudzina hit a solo bomb in the seventh. 

The series took a turn in favor of Southern Miss in game two. WKU committed four errors early on, allowing Southern Miss 14 runs in the first four innings. Southern Miss evened the series at 1-1. 

“We just aren’t playing well defensively, and our pitching has also not been there,” said sophomore outfielder Paul Murray. “Those little errors we made today were huge, and we have to clean up the little things. Defense wins championships at the end of the day, and we have to get better there.”

Murray proved to be one of the bright spots for the Hilltoppers, finishing the day with a career high in hits going for 4 for 5 at the plate. 

“Murray was awesome today,” Myers said. “He has been the guy that we go to against left handers, and he gave four to five great at bats. I am proud of him.” 

The rubber match on Sunday would not be any more cheerful for the Hilltoppers. They gave up five runs, 15 hits overall, in the first five innings to lose their second C-USA series of the season. 

The Hilltoppers regained some energy in the fifth inning by scoring two runs on three hits, but could not create a big enough threat to the solid Golden Eagle defense. 

“If a couple of our hits go left or right a couple more inches, we have a really good offensive day,” Myers said. “We don’t change who we are just because of this loss. We can’t dwell on this. That’s a good team, and we had our chances, and now we have to go play Kentucky.”

The Hilltoppers will look to get back on track in Lexington, Tuesday as they begin their week against Kentucky. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. CT at Cliff Hagan Stadium.