CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte kept visiting Southern Miss in check carrying a 1-0 lead into the sixth until the Golden Eagles erupted for five runs en route to a 5-2 Conference USA victory on Saturday afternoon. The Niners see the struggles of the 2014 season come to an end finishing 19-31-1 overall, 10-19 in the first year back in Conference USA.
Things started off in a positive direction for the Niners as Zach Jarrett led off the bottom of the third drilling the first pitch he saw to left for his second home run of the year. Behind starter Brock Hudgens’ solid five frames allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts, Charlotte carried their 1-0 advantage past the midway point of the season-finale heading into the sixth.
Hudgens would get his eighth strikeout of the day to start the Southern Miss sixth but then run into trouble thanks to a pair of hustle plays by Michael Sterling. Sterling would send a groundball to short on a 1-1 offering from Hudgens and beat it out to earn the infield single. Moments later, Sterling would swipe second base sliding around the tag of Mikal Hill after the ball beat him there in plenty of time.
Sterling’s hustle would pay off three batters later after a walk to Mason Robbins and hit by pitch to Matt Durst allowed Sterling to score the game-tying run on a wild pitch. Tim Lynch followed with another walk to re-load the bases before Breck Kline doubled to right-center scoring two giving Southern Miss a 3-1 lead. After Hudgens got a fly ball to center off the bat of Michael Gilbert, his afternoon and final start in a Niner uniform would come to an end after Austin Roussel blooped a double down the right-field line to complete the five-run frame for the Golden Eagles.
“Brock was really good early,” commented Head Coach Loren Hibbs. “He had some energy, was down in the strike zone and really dominant there for about three or four innings. Then we had a bad inning. We had a couple of defensive miscues and Southern Miss took advantage.”
Hudgens’ (3-6) career would come to a close after tossing 5.2 innings on Sunday allowing the five runs on five hits after the rocky sixth. The right-hander added eight strikeouts to finish with and opponent’s batting average of just .232 which stands third all-time in Niners history.
Senior Grant Dunnegan would help the Niners get one of those runs back in the seventh lining a two-out single to right-center to score Hill for a 5-2 deficit. After Jarrett singled to left off of reliever Bradley Roney to put runners at first and second, Roney, one of the top relievers in Conference USA, got a final strikeout with the tying run at the plate to end the seventh.
Roney (11) would notch is league-leading 11th save of the season tossing the final 2.1 innings for Southern Miss allowing one hit, a walk and two strikeouts. Cameron Giannini (4-2) escaped with the win after 6.2 innings of work surrendering both runs on four hits with seven strikeouts.
In addition to his third inning homer, Jarrett would collect a final hit late on Saturday to finish 2-for-3 on the day. Southern Miss was led by Kline’s two-hit effort with his two RBI.
Charlotte honored its eight seniors before the game marking their final collegiate contest being unable to send them out with a final win.
“I thought we played pretty darn good today,” continued Hibbs. “Our seniors are quality guys. Not one of those eight guys mailed it in. We told them when it ends, it ends abruptly, there is no phasing out. They’re all going to be successful. All of them have graduated and we’re really proud of that. That’s a big part of our program and what we do.”