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USM continues to roll, wins 7-2

By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
May 23, 2003
NEW ORLEANS It wasn't quite as thorough, but the end result was the same. Southern Miss continued its dominating run through its league and remained in the winner's bracket of the 2003 Conference USA baseball tournament.
The top-seeded Golden Eagles improved to 43-14 on the year with a 7-2 win over the Houston Cougars during Thursday's day two action at Tulane University's Turchin Stadium. The 43 wins represent a single-season school record for USM.
USM will take today off and will advance to the Saturday morning game against the winner of East Carolina and Houston, which will meet this afternoon at 3 pm.
The Golden Eagles manufactured 17 hits on the day, and in the process, chased four pitchers, but none worse than starter Danny Zell, who got roughed up for six earned runs on 14 hits.
And when you're facing an offensive powerhouse like USM, that's simply not a good place to be.
Senior Jeff Cook bounced back from a hitless outing on Wednesday to punish the Cougars (32-26) with a clutch 3-for-4 effort that began the offense for the Black and Gold.
His third-inning screamer down the left field line drove in Beau Griffin and Matt Shepherd to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Brad Wilcutt's sacrifice brought in Marc Maddox and suddenly USM was on the move.
And unfortunately for Houston, those runs seemed to give Golden Eagle starter Cliff Russum, normally a midweek guy, some confidence. He settled down with the lead and chained up the Cougar offense, not allowing a baserunner through the middle 3 2/3 innings.
He tallied a seven-inning effort, yielding just four hits and a run, while walking one to improve to 7-5.
Shepherd notched a 4-for-5 effort with an RBI. Jason Lowery and Griffin each added three hits. Griffin drove in an insurance run in the sixth, while Shepherd tacked on another in the lengthy eighth.
But as is the case with this season's squad, balance is prevalent and the defense played just as big of a part.
Austin Tubb extinguished the Cougar's last grasp at a rally in the ninth and fittingly, collected his ninth save by fanning the final two Houston batters, much to the delight of the partisan Golden Eagle faithful in the stands. On Saturday, Palmer will send Anthony DeWitt (8-2) to the mound.