Eagles rally but can’t score late, miss opportunity to sweep Tulane

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 30, 2003

HATTIESBURG &045; On Saturday Southern Miss jumped on Tulane closer Joey Charron to win.

Sunday he returned the favor.

Charron, the Green Wave’s left-handed closer, came with the same not-so-dominating stuff late in the game to quell a Southern Miss rally, shut the door and send his club back home with a 5-4 win to avoid the Conference USA sweep.

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The Golden Eagles (20-8, 7-2) missed an opportunity to broom the Green Wave &045; historically one of the league’s top teams &045; and establish an even firmer grip on first place.

&uot;We knew they were going to come in here and try to avoid the sweep,&uot; said USM center fielder Jeff Cook, one of three stranded baserunners in the eighth. &uot;It’s hard to sweep them, but we had them playing into our hands in the eighth inning. It’s going to be a little bitter, but we’re going to come out tomorrow and focus on our next few games.&uot;

Charron retired all five batters he faced and brought the offspeed stuff to put the Golden Eagles away. He came in the eighth with the bases loaded and got out of the jam, and he stuck out Beau Griffin to lead off the ninth before getting Jarrett Hoffpauir and Matt Shepherd pop out to end the inning.

But as a closer, that’s just part of the business. Charron got tattooed Saturday but was flawless Sunday.

&uot;He did a great job,&uot; Tulane head coach Rick Jones said. &uot;He had a tough day yesterday, but when you’re a closer you live and die by the day. That’s kind of the closer he’s been for us most of the time. He’s had two tough games this week. Our closer got it done today.&uot;

The Golden Eagles were left with the heart of their order waiting to hit in the ninth, but they loaded the bases in the eighth off Tulane pitcher Cory Hahn and Tyler Kimmons to stage a rally.

The Eagles went into the inning trailing 5-3, and Matt Shepherd led off with a walk off Hahn before Jones summoned Kimmons, who walked Cook.

Cleanup hitter Brad Willcutt singled in Shepherd and moved Cook to third, but Clint King struck out for the first out of the inning. Griff Israel then walked to load the bases with one out when Charron came in.

Right-handed hitter Ryan Frith pinch-hit for lefty Carlos Velasquez, and Charron got him swinging for the second out. Jason Lowery then flied out to third to end the threat.

&uot;Charron is a good reliever,&uot; USM head coach Corky Palmer said. &uot;We got him yesterday, ane he got us today. My hat goes off to him. We had (a chance) right there in the bottom of the eighth. I was a little disappointed we didn’t score. We switched from the left-hander to the right-hander when they brought in Charron. To me, that was thing to do.&uot;

The Golden Eagles appeared to be on the verge of breaking it open late in the game after getting two runs early. Hahn shut down the Eagles midway through before they got a run in the sixth to trim the lead to 4-3 when Willcutt doubled and scored on an Israel sacrifice fly.

Hahn then retired the side in the seventh, and the Green Wave got a crucial insurance run in the eighth when Tony Giarrantano walked to lead off and scored on a Tommy Manzella sacrifice fly.

That came off relievers after USM starter Stephen Castleman got yanked after going 6 2/3 and allowing four runs.

&uot;We would have liked to have won the series, but coming out today and winning gives us a boost,&uot; Jones said. &uot;There has to be some resiliency. You have to fight through at-bats, make pitches count and play the game right. We didn’t do that the last two days, and Southern Miss has a good ball club.&uot;

Tulane jumped on the board with four runs in the first three innings off Castleman, but the Eagles tacked two on Hahn in the first two to stay close. King singled in Shepherd in the first, and Lowery doubled in the second before scoring on a wild pitch.

After that, however, Hahn 10 straight until Hoffpauir singled in the fifth.

&uot;I thought our hands were slow today,&uot; Palmer said. &uot;We had our shot in the eighth. I’d say if that comes on the road no big deal. But we were at home, and I’m disappointed we didn’t get it done.&uot;