May 16, 2001
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Southern Miss rode the strong pitching of Chad Rogers to a 6-2 opening round victory over No. 2 seed Houston, today, in the 2001 FedEx Conference USA Baseball Tournament played at Zephyr Field.
Rogers threw 6.2 innings of outstanding baseball, giving up two runs, one earned, on four hits, walking one and striking out seven to even his record at 6-6 on the season. Anthony Rawson came on in relief in the seventh inning, earning his sixth save of the season. He pitched the final 2.1 innings, closing the door on the Cougars. Houston starter Keith Whatley (4-2) took the loss, pitching 7.2 innings, giving up five runs, four earned, on eight hits, walking one and striking out five.
"Chad kept us in the game early, even though we were struggling defensively," Southern MIss Head Coach Corky Palmer said. "There are three phases to the game. While we struggled defensively, we played well offensively, especially the last three innings, but it was Chad who kept us in it and I felt really comfortable with Anthony Rawson coming in at the point he did."
The Golden Eagles were led by four players, collecting two hits each. Allen Winningham went 2-for-4 with two runs batted in, Michael Artman finished with two hits in four at bats, scored two runs and drove in one, Darren Welch collected two hits in four trips to the plate and driving in a run, and Dusty Haley went 2-for-4 at the plate. Houston spread out its four hits and only collected one extra base hit.
"I threw really bad when I was warming up in the bullpen and thought we might be in trouble," Southern Miss pitcher Rogers said. "I just told myself, okay, you had a bad pen, go out and throw a good game. Early on, I had pretty good control and I thought that I would be able to hang around for a while."
Southern Miss was leading by one run, 3-2, in the eighth inning when back-to-back singles by Darren Welch and Clint Stoy drove in Jeff Cook and Haley, pushing the lead to 5-2. Cook collected his first hit in 14 at bats, dating back to beginning of the UAB series, to start the two-out rally.
The Golden Eagles tacked on another two-out run in the ninth inning, extending their lead to 6-2. Back-to-back doubles by Artman and Winngham accounted for the run. Rawson's first pitch in relief in the seventh inning forced the final out of that inning and then he set down the Cougars three straight in both the eighth and ninth innings.
"Those late inning runs were really key for us," Palmer said. "We've had quality pitching with depth all season, and when we get key hits like we did today, we feel like we can play with anyone."
Southern Miss, winner of five-straight games, will face the winner of No. 3 South Florida and No. 6 Louisville in a 4 p.m., Thursday game. Shea Douglas (5-5) is expected to be the starting pitcher for the Golden Eagles.