WKU falls to Southern Miss 11-1 to open C-USA tournament in the early morning hours


Credit: WKU Athletics

Junior Aristotle Peter pitching against Valparaiso on March 21, 2021 in Nick Denes Field. WKU went on to win 11-1 over the Crusaders to improve to 10-9 on the season.

Wyatt Sparkman, Baseball Reporter

WKU (26-28), (15-18, C-USA) began its run in the 2021 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Championship against the no. 16 Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (36-17), (23-9, C-USA) in the wee hours of Thursday morning. WKU lost 11-1 by way of run-rule in just eight innings. 

Sophomore Devyn Terbrak got the opening round start for WKU. He pitched for 2.2 innings allowing nine hits and six runs with two strikeouts.  

Southern Miss senior Hunter Stanley got his ninth start of the season. He tossed eight innings, striking out the first five WKU batters he faced, and tying the C-USA tournament record of 14 total strikeouts.

“He did an outstanding job,”  head coach John Pawlowski of Stanley’s performance in a press release. “I thought the difference was the guy they had on the bump for them tonight. He dominated the zone and we weren’t able to get much going offensively. We got off to a rough start – you give up four runs in the first inning to a team like that – and then we just didn’t have much going on after that. So, tough ball game for the Tops today. Now we just have to get back to the hotel, get to bed, and get ready for four o’clock tomorrow.”

WKU senior Matt Phipps had a two-hit game and drove in the only Hilltopper run. Southern Miss freshman Dustin Dickerson contributed three hits and five different Golden Eagles had two-hit performances.

Stanley struck out the side to begin the game, which began at 12:15 in the morning. Junior Gabe Montenegro singled to lead off the bottom of the first frame before stealing second base. After a walk, sophomore Reece Ewing batted in the first run of the game on an RBI single. 

Sophomore Danny Lynch followed Ewing with an RBI single of his own to push the Golden Eagle lead to 2-0. Sophomore Will McGillis extended Southern Mississippi’s lead further to 4-0 on an RBI triple that plated Ewing and Lynch. Terbrak got out of the first inning with a pop up. 

Both teams had nothing to show for in the second inning. WKU went three up and three down, while Southern Miss left a runner stranded on second base after a double play. 

WKU went three up and three down in the top of the third inning as well. Sophomore Jackson Swiney got the first out of the bottom of the third inning with an incredible sliding catch at the warning track but the Golden Eagles would extend their lead to 6-0 on an RBI by Dickerson. 

Redshirt junior Collin Lollar relieved Terbrak with Southern Miss runners on second and third base with two outs and ended the inning by inducing a pop-out. Neither team recorded a hit in the fourth inning.

The Hilltoppers went three up and three down for the fifth consecutive inning in the top of the fifth frame. In the bottom of the inning, Lollar walked two Golden Eagle batters before junior Aristotle Peter relieved him with two outs. Montenegro hit a line drive to Phipps to end the fifth inning. 

Phipps recorded WKU’s first hit of the game in the top of the sixth inning. He was eventually left stranded after a strikeout and fly out. Southern Miss went three up and three down to end the inning. 

Stanley walked his first Hilltopper batter of the game in the top of the seventh inning before stranding him on first base after three consecutive outs. McGillis doubled in the bottom half of the inning but was left stranded on second base. 

Swiney led off the top of the eighth frame with a double and Phipps batted him in with a double of his own to cut the Golden Eagle lead to 6-1. Phipps would be left stranded on second base after Stanley threw his 14th strikeout of the game, tying a C-USA tournament record. 

Dickerson and Montenegro led off of the bottom of the eighth with a single apiece, followed by an RBI single from freshman Reed Trimble that extended the Southern Miss lead to 7-1. Junior Connor Stephens then relieved Peter.  

After a single loaded the bases, the Golden Eagles ended the game via run-rule on a grand slam by sophomore Christopher Sargent. The game ended in favor of Southern Miss by a score of 11-1 just past 3 a.m.

WKU will play Texas San-Antonio in a win-or-go-home game on Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. CT in Ruston, LA. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

Baseball beat reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]