Eagles high hopes dashed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 6, 2004

BATON ROUGE &045; In the late innings Southern Miss’ offense resembled a Reid Price offspeed pitch &045; in slow motion.

Price settled in on the hill as the game went on for the College of Charleston, and the Eagles &045; who started the day Saturday with enough line drive shots to worry any opposition &045; chopped it in the ground and struggled.

The Cougars took a 7-3 win over the Eagles to advance to the finals of the Baton Rouge regional of the NCAA tournament against LSU at 1 p.m. today.

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The Eagles finished their season at 45-19.

The left-handed Price wasn’t anything dominating, but he got plenty of ground ball outs and the occasional strikeout by mixing up his pitches and throwing strikes. He finished the game with three walks but only one after the second inning.

The Eagles couldn’t come up with steady offense after hitting the ball hard in a 6-2 loss to LSU earlier Saturday.

The Cougars also kept the pressure on from the offensive end by getting a couple key hits but doing the little things right with baserunning and bunting.

&uot;They ping the ball around,&uot; USM head coach Corky Palmer said after the loss to LSU. &uot;You can’t strike out their hitters. They’re always hitting the ball the other way and bunting.&uot;

Reid went the distance for the Cougars, who dropped a 5-4 decision to the Eagles on Friday night to open the regional. He struck out eight, including the side in the ninth.

Charleston struck big in the fourth off USM starter Mike Cashion, who exited in the inning for reliever Daniel Best. Kevin Bulger led off with a double, went to third on a Brian Hastings single and scored on a wild pitch to give the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

Best entered and got Brett Gardner on an infield grounder, but Byron Barber’s single scored Hastings and Phillip Coker for a 5-2 lead. Chris Campbell then singled in Barber for a 6-2 lead.

The Eagles answered in the top half of the fifth when Marc Maddox blasted his second home run of the day over the left-field fence, but they came up empty after that.

The Eagles picked up two runs in the third when Jarrett Hoffpauir singled in Matt Shepherd and Maddox with one out.

In the later innings the Eagles came up empty while tacking on the occasional baserunner. In the fifth after Maddox homered Hoffpauir singled, but Reid got Brad Willcutt and Ryan Frith to fly out to end the inning.

In the eighth Willcutt led off with a single but got forced out at second on a Frith grounder. Frith went to second on a Jason Lowery groundout and was left stranded when Carlos Velasquez grounded out to short to end the inning.