Southern Miss (18-9, 8-2 C-USA) trailed 3-0 at the start of the first inning after Marshall (18-11, 6-4 C-USA) hung four hits on starting pitcher Walker Powell.
“If you give up a big inning you do it in the first and you have the rest of the game to recover and we saw that with South Alabama after we put up a five [runs] they had eight more innings to recover from it and tonight same way,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “[Marshall] had a three [run lead], but we had eight innings to recover but the difference was that Walker put all zeros up after the three spot.”
Southern Miss’ bats answered back with a two-run inning thanks to a two-run RBI single from Brant Blaylock to cut the lead 3-2. However, it was Powell’s recovery on the mound that proved to be the difference as he went for the complete game and guided Southern Miss to a 10-3 Friday night win over Marshall.
Despite the answer-back, Blaylock did not think Powell was going to able to recover from that inning.
“Honestly no,” Blaylock who went 3-for-5 with four RBI said. “They had a really good approach in the first inning. Kind of pessimistically, I thought they were going to stick to it. He did a really good job keeping them off balance for the rest of the night and all the credit to him.”
The key to Powell’s success was his pitch count. Powell posted 21 pitches in the first inning, but settled and pitched to contact to lower his pitch count. After the first inning, Powell averaged 11.25 pitches per inning.
“First inning was a little shaky,” Powell said. “I felt like I was making some good pitches but they did a good job of capitalizing off a few mistakes. I felt like I only made a few mistakes and they really capitalized off them. I think the biggest difference from that first inning on was that I was able to land my off-speed [pitches] low in the zone for strikes.”
Powell pitched around several Marshall opportunities as the Thundering Herd hit six doubles and totaled 10 hits on the night.
“The pitch count is what enabled to him to do it,” Berry said. “He got contact early. Pitching around those doubles and not giving up those runs that right there made a statement on his outing to not let those guys cross the plate after that first inning.”
In 111 pitches, Powell allowed three runs off 10 hits, threw seven strikeouts and gave up no walks. For Powell, part of the adjustment was knowing that the Southern Miss offense was going to be able to back him up.
“Our offense is as good as anybody in the country, so three runs I knew wasn’t going to beat us,” Powell said. “Me and [Ostrander] both knew that we could put up some runs so I knew that I had to just keep executing and get out of that inning and settle down.”
Southern Miss had three multiple-run innings with the game being broken open in the fifth inning.
After putting up a run up in the fourth inning, Blaylock hit another run RBI single with Will McGillis followed with a two-run RBI double.
Byrant Bowen went 2-for-5 with an RBI, Matt Wallner went 3-for-4 including a two-run home run and McGillis finished 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Southern Miss will play a doubleheader on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 11 a.m. and the next game following 45 minutes after.