The Ole Miss Rebels held Southern Miss scoreless for the last seven innings Wednesday night, downing the 11th-ranked Golden Eagles, 4-1.
In the wake of the loss, coming at home in Hattiesburg, Miss., Southern Miss will turn its attention to a weekend series in which it will host the UTSA Roadrunners.
The series starting Friday will go a long way toward determining the Conference USA regular-season championship.
The Golden Eagles (36-13, 18-6) lead the conference, followed by the second-place Roadrunners (32-16, 16-8).
Louisiana Tech and Florida Atlantic (both 15-9 in the C-USA) trail the Roadrunners by one game.
UTSA closes the regular season with three games at home against the UAB Blazers. The series is set for May 19-21.
Teams have six games to play in the regular season before the C-USA tournament, which is scheduled May 25-29, also in Hattiesburg.
UTSA, a C-USA member in baseball since 2014, has never won either the regular-season or the tournament title.
The Roadrunners have never won more than 17 C-USA games or finished higher than fifth in the standings. UTSA finished fifth in both 2015 and 2018. The Roadrunners went 17-13 in 2015.
In San Antonio, the Roadrunners had Monday and Tuesday off for final exams before they staged a workout on Wednesday. They were scheduled to travel to Hattiesburg Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday night at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field, Ole Miss’ Drew McDaniel started and pitched five innings, allowing the only run of the game in the second, for the victory.
Jackson Kimbrell, Josh Mallitz and Brandon Johnson finished with shutout relief. All told, the Rebels held the Golden Eagles to five hits.
UTSA 32-16, 16-8
Southern Miss 36-13, 18-6
UTSA has lost three of its last five games overall, and the Roadrunners are hitting only .206 in that stretch. Southern Miss has dropped five of its last eight. In its last two C-USA series, the Eagles have dropped two of three both at UAB and at home against Old Dominion.
Southern Miss 18-6
Louisiana Tech 15-9
Florida Atlantic 15-9
Middle Tennessee 14-10
Old Dominion 13-11
Friday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 2 p.m.
Sunday — UTSA at Southern Miss, 11 a.m.
Edge: Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles have relied on their pitching all season. Entering the week, the Tanner Hall-led staff was second in the nation in both earned run average (3.07) and WHIP (1.12).
Hall (7-1) is the presumed starter for Southern Miss on Friday night. He was undefeated before he took the loss in a 4-1 setback last week against the Monarchs. Regardless, Hall enters the UTSA game with a 2.31 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 78 innings. Hall is sixth in the nation in strikeouts.
Last week, Southern Miss used Hall, grad student Hunter Riggins and sophomore Hurston Waldrep, in that order, in a three-game series against Old Dominion. UTSA went with sophomore Daniel Garza, junior Luke Malone and sophomore Drake Smith.
UTSA’s calling card is offense. The Roadrunners, with 393 runs scored in 48 games, are patient at the plate and usually don’t strike out much. They’re 28th in the nation with a .300 batting average and 29th in on base percentage at .401. In most games down the stretch, they’ve have started lineups with six or seven players at .300 or better.
That said, Roadrunners coach Pat Hallmark has been concerned about the hitting of late. UTSA is only 32 of 155 at the plate in its last five.
Shane Sirdashney (.360) and Josh Killeen (.341) have the highest averages on the team, though they aren’t listed atop the statistical leaders. Leyton Barry, Sammy Diaz, Jonathan Tapia, Chase Keng and Garrett Poston are all hitting .300 or better. Home run leaders include Ian Bailey (with 12) and Ryan Flores (eight). RBI leaders include Keng (50), Bailey (44), Flores (41) and Tapia (40).