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USM's Douglas has night to remember

By By Stan Caldwell/Special to The Star
May 4, 2002
HATTIESBURG Shea Douglas was late for a very important date Friday night. So after pitching six innings of stellar ball for the University of Southern Mississippi, the senior left-hander high-tailed it out of Pete Taylor Park, headed for the hospital and the imminent birth of his first child.
It was all part of a banner night for the Golden Eagles, as they thrashed the University of Memphis 16-5 in the first game of a Conference USA series before an audience of 1,875.
The win, combined with losses on the part of Houston and Louisville, moved USM (31-16, 14-7) into sole possession of second place in the conference, just a game behind the league-leading Cougars. Memphis dropped to 15-26 and 7-15. The second game of the weekend series is scheduled for today at 2 p.m.
Douglas (9-1) scattered five hits and surrendered just two runs in his six innings of work. He struck out nine and walked four. The nine strikeouts moved Douglas past Ray Guy and Frankie McLendon into third place for most career strikeouts at USM with 270.
The Golden Eagles gave Douglas all the help he needed in a nearly-perfect effort. USM rapped out 13 hits, took advantage of four Memphis errors and made a series of fine defensive plays.
Hoffpauir also contributed offensively with a double and two singles as the Eagles scored runs in six of the eight innings in which they batted.
First baseman Griff Israel started the hit parade for USM in the first inning with a three-run home run to left-center field off Tiger starter Nick Steht (0-5), after Jeff Cook had reached base on an error and Brad Willcutt drew a walk. That came after Douglas struck all three batters he faced in the top of the first.
USM failed to score in the second inning, but then plated five runs in the third on three hits, two Tiger errors and two wild pitches by Steht. Clint King had an RBI single in the inning and Beau Griffin also drove in a run with a single.
Griffin was pressed into service when starting third baseman Allen Winningham was hit by a pitch just above his left ankle and had to leave the game. The former Meridian Community College standout, USM's leading hitter with a .368 average coming into the game, is listed as day-to-day. He is expected to miss today's game, but may be ready to go on Sunday.
Memphis scored two runs in the fourth on a two-run home run by Barrett Smith, but USM came right back with a run in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the fifth.
After Douglas departed after the top of the sixth to a standing ovation from his teammates the Eagles scored three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Douglas' wife, Shaun, left the game for Forrest General Hospital midway through the fourth inning, accompanied by her parents. The couple are expecting a girl.
Hoffpauir led off with the bottom of the sixth with a single, and he eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. Carlos Velasquez drove in a run with a double and Willcutt had an RBI single. Velasquez completed the scoring for USM with a two-run homer in the seventh.
As if all of that wasn't enough, USM also played flawless, sometimes brilliant, defense. Shortstop Matt Shepherd made one terrific play in the fifth, slicing into short center field to field a grounder up the middle for an out. And Griffin snowconed a sharp grounder for an out to end the seventh.
Memphis scored three runs in the top of the ninth off reliever Brent Leach, but it was far too little way too late. Although this has been a tough season for the Tigers, the Golden Eagles say they aren't looking past them.