Christopher Sargent smashed three home runs on Sunday to power the Southern Miss Golden Eagles’ 9-5 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.
The Golden Eagles homered six times in all as they won for the second straight day in a battle of Conference USA contenders.
Southern Miss, playing on its home field, won two of the three meetings in the weekend series to remain entrenched in first place with three games to play in the C-USA race.
By the end of the afternoon, the Golden Eagles led the C-USA, followed by the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who are two games back. The Roadrunners and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are tied for third, three games out.
The Roadrunners won the opener 8-7 on Friday night in Hattiesburg to pull within one game of the conference lead.
In the final analysis, they couldn’t sustain the momentum, falling 8-3 on Saturday and then watching as Sargent put on an impressive power display at Pete Taylor Park for the 11th-ranked team in the nation.
Sargent, a junior from Wilmer, Ala., was zero for nine in the series coming into the finale.
But he exploded in a game that that decided the series, going three for four at the plate, scoring three runs and driving in four. His three home runs boosted his team-leading total to 18 on the season.
After UTSA took a 2-0 lead in the top of first inning on a Ryan Flores two-run homer, Sargent highlighted a three-run response in the bottom half, answering with a two-run blast of his own off Roadrunners’ starter Drake Smith.
UTSA rallied with three runs in the third to take a 5-3 lead.
But, once again, Sargent had an answer with his potent bat. In the bottom of the third, with UTSA’s Luke Malone on the mound on only one day’s rest, Sargent and Slade Wilks blasted solo home runs to tie the game.
In the fourth, Reece Ewing hit a two-run shot, as the Golden Eagles opened a 7-5 advantage. They never trailed again. Sargent hit a solo homer in the seventh and Carson Paetow added another in the eighth.
With Southern Miss swinging aggressively, UTSA pitching couldn’t match up. Starter Drake Smith got only one out before he yielded three runs on three hits. He was replaced by Malone, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning of Friday night’s victory.
Malone worked 6 and 2/3 innings, and he yielded five runs on seven hits.
The Roadrunners swung the bats well early in the game against USM’s Hurston Waldrep. But they cooled off considerably against relievers Matthew Adams, Justin Storm, Garrett Ramsey and Landon Harper.
UTSA had a chance to rally in the eighth but couldn’t get it done.
With Ramsey on the mound and Southern Miss leading by three runs, Chase Keng opened with a single. Diaz followed with a single, a blast that glanced off Ramsey’s foot and caromed into the outfield.
At that point, Ramsey went down and had to be replaced. Harper entered and struck out Leyton Barry and pinch-hitter Isaiah Walker. Matt King flied out to center to end the inning and the threat.
UTSA 33-18, 17-10
Southern Miss 38-14, 20-7
Southern Miss 20-7
Louisiana Tech 18-9
Middle Tennessee 17-10
Old Dominion 16-11
Florida Atlantic 16-11
Thursday — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Friday — UAB at UTSA, 6 p.m.
Saturday — UAB at UTSA, noon.
May 25-29 — at Hattiesburg, Miss.