Historically, Southern Miss does not lose at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg.
Just ask the public address announcer at Southern Miss’ home ballpark who time after time bellows about the Pete Taylor Park “magic” over the mic.
However, this weekend, Louisiana Tech pulled its own magic show as the Bulldogs (17-6, 3-1 C-USA) won three out of four in the opening weekend of Conference USA play.
Tech won 3-2 in Friday’s opener, took the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader 4-0 behind Cade Gibson’s complete-game gem and then rallied from four runs down on Sunday for an 8-7 win. USM won 14-6 in Saturday’s first game.
“I’m very proud of this group,” said Bulldog skipper Lane Burroughs. “It’s the first time we have played four games in a conference series and to do it on the road in one of the toughest places in this league to play says a lot about our team. We found a different way to win each time.
“To bounce back Saturday after getting out teeth kicked in, I was just proud. Even (Sunday) we are down 4-0 and I never felt like we blinked or flinched. We held the rope and stayed steady. When you have a mature team, for me as a coach, it’s a confident feeling. We know our guys won’t back and down and we will be in every game.”
Tech, ranked 21st in the country heading into the weekend, did something no other league school has done to Southern Miss (14-9, 1-3) in Hattiesburg in more than a decade. The Golden Eagles haven’t lost three home games of the conference series since UCF handed them three losses back in 2010.
“They don’t lose very many series at home period,” said Burroughs. “For us to go in there and win three was a great way to start league play.”
The wins didn’t come without some stressful moments. With Tech leading 3-2 on Friday night, USM had runners on second and third with only one out in the ninth inning. Enter Landon Thompkins _ a young man who hasn’t pitched in three weeks.
Back-to-back strikeouts by Thompkins sealed the win.
After dropping the 14-6 decision in Saturday’s first game, the Bulldog bounce back was in full display as Gibson blanked USM 4-0. Just another ho hum complete-game shutout by the Ruston native.
Then on Sunday, Tech trailed 4-0 after two innings. Hard to believe it, but these Bulldogs had them right where they wanted them. The Bulldogs scored seven straight runs and even after USM rallied to tie the game at 7-7, the Bulldogs plated a run in the seventh and picked up the 8-7 victory.
“We are down 4-0 and I felt like we had a number of calls go against us … yet we find a way to win,” said Burroughs. “We talk about the make-up of our team and our character all the time. With this group, I feel like we are going to win every game regardless of the score.”
Tech returns to action Thursday, Friday and Saturday in a four-game home series against UAB.