MURFREESBORO – MTSU had two opportunities to lock up second place in Conference USA on Friday at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
But the Blue Raiders couldn’t do it and must now wait until Saturday to find out its finish in the conference standings and its seed in next week’s C-USA tournament.
Southern Miss won its 12th and 13th consecutive games after taking both contests of a doubleheader against the Blue Raiders to complete a three-game sweep to conclude the regular season for both teams.
The Golden Eagles won the first game 13-11 before winning the second game 8-4.
It was the first time MTSU has been swept at home since losing three straight to rival Western Kentucky in the final series of 2013.
“We struggled a little bit,” MTSU left fielder Jared Allen said. “We didn’t play our best baseball, and that’s something we know we’ve got to fix it. We know we’ve got to go into the tournament, and we’ve got to find a way to get hot in the tournament.”
The losses dropped MTSU (30-25, 19-11 C-USA), which spent the first eight weeks of the league season in or tied for first place in C-USA, into fourth place in the league standings entering the final day of the regular season.
The Blue Raiders’ finish in the standings and their tournament seeding will be determined by the result of No. 25 Florida Atlantic’s game against Western Kentucky on Saturday.
If FAU (38-15, 19-10) wins, MTSU will finish in solo fourth place and get the No. 4 seed. If WKU wins, MTSU will finish in a tie for third place with FAU and will earn the No. 3 seed for the tournament by virtue of its tiebreaker against the Owls.
“I think you always want to finish as high as you can finish,” MTSU coach Jim McGuire said. “With as long as we were in first or tied for first, to finish third I think would be great.
“But you know, three or four (seed), it’s like I told the team, you’re picking your poison. You’re either going to be in the bracket with Southern Miss, who’s hot as can be, or you’re going to be in the bracket with Rice, who’s traditionally the power in the conference and in the tournament.”
MTSU’s two defeats on Friday also secured the regular season championship for No. 21 Rice (33-18, 20-8) for the 20th consecutive year.
After starting the C-USA slate 14-4, the Raiders closed out their conference season 5-7 and losses in three of its last four series.
The C-USA tournament starts in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Wednesday.
Game 1: USM 13, MTSU 11
The Blue Raiders and Eagles (35-16-1, 19-10) combined for 24 runs on 29 hits in a back and forth affair that featured four lead changes and a 90-minute rain delay.
In the end, timely hitting from Southern Miss proved to be too much for MTSU to overcome as the Eagles took their final lead with five runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Seventeen of 18 starting hitters in the game for the two teams, including all nine for MTSU, finished with at least one hit.
Heath Slatton took the loss for MTSU, while Nick Johnson picked up the win for Southern Miss.
Game 2: USM 8, MTSU 4
Southern Miss plated three runs in the second inning and added three more in the fourth inning to build an insurmountable 6-0 lead against MTSU.
The Blue Raiders trimmed the deficit to 6-4 in the eighth inning before the Eagles added two more runs in the ninth inning to complete the scoring.
James McMahon picked up the win for Southern Miss while Tyler Troutt took the loss for MTSU.
USM scored 33 runs on 36 hits during the three-game series, including 10 runs in the ninth innings.
Contact Will Borthick at 615-278-5167. Follow him on Twitter @willborthick.