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USM beats UNO

Southern Mississippi head coach Corky Palmer predicted that only excellent pitching and defense could get the Golden Eagles a victory over heavy-hitting New Orleans.

If that was a veiled challenge to his players to start swinging the bats better, it worked.

Michael Ewing hit a home run and drove in five runs to power Southern Mississippi to a 13-6 victory over New Orleans in the opening round of the Baton Rouge regional on Friday night.

“Who would have thought we’d have outslugged New Orleans, but we did,” said Palmer, whose team came in with a .287 batting average and 70 home runs, far below UNO’s .325 team batting average and 93 home runs.

Ewing’s bases-loaded single in the fourth inning drove in two runs and helped the Golden Eagles (41-20) race out to a 6-0 lead. His towering three-run homer in the seventh gave Southern Miss a seven-run cushion and sent the Golden Eagles on to face regional host LSU, winners of 21-straight, in a winner’s bracket game on Saturday night.

Ewing, who came in hitting .200 and hits at the bottom of the lineup, was not the most likely source of so much offense.

“It felt great for me, especially since I wasn’t having the season I wanted to have this year,” he said. “I just happened to get two pitches to hit and did well with them.”

Josh Vander Hey’s three-run home run to right-center capped a six-run rally for UNO (42-20) in the top of the sixth as the Privateers briefly tied the game.

Southern Miss went back in front in the bottom of the inning on Bo Davis’ run-producing triple. Davis then came home on Brian Dozier’s drive off the left-field wall, making it 8-6.

Trey Sutton and Drew Carson added back-to-back home runs to make it 10-6 in the bottom of the seventh.

Southern Miss pounded out 16 hits overall, with Dozier, Davis and Ewing getting three hits apiece.

New Orleans added to its troubles with three errors, the most damaging committed by first baseman Nick Schwaner, whose inability to handle a two-out grounder with the bases loaded resulted in three unearned runs.

Southern Miss starter Barry Bowden did not allow a hit through 5 1-3 innings, striking out two and getting nine ground-ball outs in that span. New Orleans nearly scored in the top of the fourth when T.J. Baxter drove a high fly deep to left-center, but Carson made a leaping catch to prevent a home run as he crashed against the wall.

Tyrone Wethers finally broke up Bowden’s no-hit bid with a one-out double in the sixth. After Johnny Giavotella’s two-out single to left pulled UNO to 6-3, Palmer brought in reliever Wade Weathers to face Vander Hey with two outs and two on.

Vander Hey blasted his game-tying home run to right-center, but Weathers (4-1) still got the win after going 1 1-3 innings, allowing two hits and one earned run.

New Orleans starter Justin Garcia (6-2) took the loss, allowing 10 hits and eight runs — five earned — in 5 1-3 innings.

On Saturday afternoon, New Orleans will play an elimination game against Texas Southern, 12-1 losers to LSU earlier Friday.