Monarchs Drop Weekend Series 2-1 Against Southern Miss


ODU Athletics

Freshman OF Logan Duffy singles in an 8-7 win over Southern Miss in Game Two on Saturday.

By Art Neal, Associate Sports Editor

Monarch baseball returned to town as they took on the Southern Mississippi Eagles for what was initially scheduled to be a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday series on April 6-8. The monsoons of Norfolk, however, had different plans on Friday and the contest was rained out. The series was conducted with a game on Thursday and then a doubleheader on Saturday, April 8. 

Coming into the series, ODU’s record stood at 22-6, 7-2 in Sun Belt play, while USM held a record of 17-10 overall and 5-4 in conference play respectively. 

The weather for the opening game of the series was quite pleasant. Finwood’s solidified starting rotation called on left-hander Blake Morgan to start. Morgan struck out two in the first, giving the Monarchs momentum going into the bottom of the inning, where they faced junior righty Tanner Hall from USM. Hall was predicted to be the Sun Belt pitcher of the year by preseason polls and was a formidable foe for the Monarch offense. The Monarchs were able to get a bases-loaded situation in the first; unfortunately, this was with two outs and they came up short when Junior Kenny Levari flew out to end the threat. 

The game went downhill as the Monarchs’ offense was stunned for the majority of the rest of the game. Hall pitched 7 ⅔ innings, giving way to 4 hits and a singular earned run: a solo shot to Freshman outfielder Logan Duffy. The Eagles offense was able to plate four against Morgan with a solo shot and a ground ball down the first base line, making the score 3-0 in the fourth. USM struck again in the fifth and dumped a single into center, plating another and making the score 4-0. 

The Monarchs made a push late as Duffy hit a pinch-hit home run in the eighth, which forced Hall out of the game. The momentum continued in the ninth as Senior outfielder Thomas Wheeler smacked a triple that scored Freshman Alex Bouche, bringing ODU within striking distance at 4-2. Unfortunately, ODU was short on outs and ended up dropping the first game of the series on Thursday afternoon. 

An upside from ODU’s bullpen on the day was a dominant performance by the trio of Trent Buchanan, Vincent Bashara, and Ron Cole. Following eight hits surrendered by Morgan in 4.1 innings, the Eagles tallied a singular hit in the last 4.2 innings. Bashara’s performance led as he pitched three innings of one-hit ball in an extremely efficient 33 pitches.  

Because of the rainout on Friday, the second game of the series started bright and early on Saturday at 10 a.m.. Junior righty Sam Armstrong toed the slab for the Monarchs. Armstrong pitched well in the early innings and the Monarchs took advantage of some miscues from the warm-weathered USM. A handful of both groundballs and flyballs were misplayed as temperatures barely hit 50 degrees and a substantial wind blew. These miscues, in conjunction with ODU hitting, brought the score to a comfortable lead of 7-2 in the fifth. 

USM made it a game again with a two-run home run in the sixth. The “twin pillars” of Hunter Fitz-Gerald and Jake Ticer responded in the sixth as Ticer singled to score Fitz-Gerald. Finwood went to his bullpen in the seventh as he called on right-hander John Holobetz, who has budded as the new flamethrower out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, the cold and wind caused his usual velocity to dip and his control to vary. This put the Monarchs in a jam in the eighth with bases loaded. USM capitalized as they slapped a base-clearing double that brought the game within one at 8-7. 

Finwood pulled another dominant piece out of his bullpen in graduate student Robert Cook. The lefty emphatically shut the door as he struck out two of three and pitched a twelve-pitch ninth to even the series at 1-1 on Saturday afternoon. This win on the day also kept Armstrong’s undefeated streak alive as he moved to 6-0 on the season. 

The final game of the series and the second game of the doubleheader looked initially like a blowout of the home team as the Eagles tallied  an 8-2 lead by the fifth, despite Finwood’s pitching-by-committee as he used 10 arms to get through nine innings of baseball. The official starter on the day was freshman left-hander Dylan Brown, who tossed two innings before giving way to the bullpen. 

Despite the looming odds, the Monarch bats were not down for the count, and they tallied three in the seventh and three in the eighth. This brought the score to 10-8 going into the ninth inning margin, which was not surprising considering the power within the ODU lineup. Unfortunately, the bullpen was not able to catch a break and  they surrendered a singular run in the ninth, which would be the nail in the coffin. The Monarchs fell in the second game of the doubleheader 11-8 and fumbled their first Sun Belt series of the season. 

When asked about the series, Coach Finwood commented, “It was a hard-fought day of baseball. I was proud of how we competed all day in cold and wet conditions. Gave them a few runs in the second game and couldn’t quite catch up. They have a very good team and we have to play a bit better to win the series.”

The Monarchs will continue Sun Belt play this weekend as they take on two top-25 teams. They will face No.9 East Carolina at their home field in Greenville, NC on Tuesday at 6 pm and follow that up with No. 17 Coastal Carolina at the Bud in a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday series.