NORFOLK, Va. (ODU Sports) – An eighth inning solo home run from Logan Duffy and an RBI triple by Thomas Wheeler in the ninth weren’t enough for Old Dominion baseball as the Monarchs dropped their Sun Belt series opener to Southern Miss, 4-2 on Thursday afternoon at Bud Metheny Ballpark.
ODU had an early opportunity to score in the bottom of the first as Hunter Fitz-Gerald singled to left with two outs, took second on a wild pitch and reached third on an Alex Bouch infield hit. Jake Ticer was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, but the Golden Eagles (18-10, 6-4 Sun Belt) escaped the threat as Kenny Levari flew out down the left-field line.
Southern Miss applied the pressure in the top of the third as Danny Lynch led off with a single to right, advanced to second on a Creek Robertson sacrifice bunt and moved up to third on a Matthew Etzel ground out to ODU starting pitcher Blake Morgan. Morgan kept Lynch from scoring though as he fielded a ground ball from Dustin Dickerson and flipped to Fitz-Gerald at first base for the third out.
The visitors finally broke through in the top of the fourth as Slade Wilks led off with a solo home run to right center. Two more singles and a Lynch double down the first-base line gave the Golden Eagles a 3-0 lead. They tacked on another run in the fifth as Etzel doubled to the gap in right and came home on a Wilks single back up the middle.
Southern Miss looked to add to its lead with one out and runners on the corners in the sixth, but the Monarchs (22-7, 7-3) turned a 5-4-3 double play to keep it a 4-0 deficit. Fast forward to the home half of the eighth and Duffy entered the game as a pinch hitter for Chris Dengler. Duffy saw a 1-0 pitch that he liked and sent it over the fence in right field for his first career home run.
With ODU down to its last three outs, Bouche led off the ninth with a single to right center. Southern Miss retired the next two Monarch batters, but Wheeler’s fifth triple of the season cut the deficit to 4-2. Robbie O’Neal then went down swinging to end the game.
Tanner Hall (6-2), the Sun Belt Preseason Pitcher of the Year, frustrated the ODU bats throughout the game. The right hander from Zachary, Louisiana held the Monarchs to one run on four hits and two walks, adding seven strikeouts in 7.2 innings pitched. Kros Sivley picked up the save and allowed the other ODU run on two hits over 1.1 innings in relief.
“You have to give Tanner Hall a whole lot of credit,” head coach Chris Finwood said afterwards. “He commanded multiple pitches at the bottom of the strike zone and we weren’t able to hit the few mistakes that he did make until Duffy’s home run. I thought he did a fantastic job of keeping us below the zone. Blake Morgan pitched very well and only made a couple mistakes. Unfortunately, they hit the home run and then the bad hop double that caused two more runs, but I was proud of how Blake pitched out there and the bullpen did a good job.”
For ODU, Morgan fell to 3-3 after giving up four runs on eight hits in a 4.1-inning start. He did not issue a walk and struck out five. Duffy homered in his only plate appearance. Wheeler finished his day 2-for-4 with the three-bagger, Bouche also turned in a 2-for-4 effort with one run scored, and Fitz-Gerald hit 1-for-4.