The No. 17 ranked Golden Eagles started their weekend series against Florida International (17-13) by defeating the Panthers 15-4.
Southern Miss came into the game winning six out of their last seven games, only dropping a single midweek contest to Ole Miss. In this contest against FIU, Head Coach Scott Berry wanted to set the tone early.
“FlU came out and hit back-to-back singles [in the first inning] off of Kirk [McCarty] and he was able to pitch around that,” Berry said. “That was a huge momentum swing right there to get out of that inning and give up nothing.”
Freshman Matt Wallner, who was named to the Division I Baseball’s Midseason All-American list earlier this week, tallied four RBIs and also hit a home run to put USM up 1-0 early in the second inning. He followed that effort with a triple in the subsequent inning to put USM up 4-1 in the third.
Wallner’s impact at the plate was needed as he was the driving force behind USM’s first five runs of the game.
“I saw the ball pretty well today,” Wallner said. “Just trying to stay within myself and stay up the middle. Put up some runs is a confidence booster towards the lineup. Just attack the bullpen.”
Junior Kirk McCarty started on the mound for USM, guiding Southern Miss with 7 innings pitched, striking out seven batters and giving up four runs in his appearance.
McCarty’s only mistakes came in the third and sixth innings where McCarty gave up two runs in each.
“Kirk gave up a two-run homer [in the third] but turned right around and retired several after that,” said Head Coach Scott Berry. “I think that’s a sign of a mature arm on the mound and that’s his job. You’re not going to be able to get everybody out, but when you do give up that home run, you’ve got to be able to go out and get the next [batter out].”
But, the Golden Eagle offense was able to explode in the latter innings and cruise to the series-opening victory.
“It’s big getting a win on Friday,” said right fielder Mason Irby. “Then, you put pressure on them. We don’t have to play with that pressure. Not have to worry about wins and losses — just do what we do and let that take care of itself.”
Southern Miss will continue their series against FIU on April 8, with the first pitch at 2 p.m.