STARKVILLE— Freshman pinch hitter Charlie Fischer stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning with Southern Miss’ first runner in scoring position. Down 1-2 in the count and with the infield shifting, Fischer hit the only RBI of the game and gave Southern Miss all it needed in its 1-0 win against Mississippi State on Friday night.
“I wanted to be in that situation,” Fischer said. “I wanted to be up there. I wanted my name to be called. Coach told me to get loose on the bench. Honestly, I was waiting my turn the whole game. Every time someone steps foot on the field. They know they are up and we believe in them no matter what. I knew those guys I had my back and I was able to deliver.”
Scoring the game-winning run was former Bulldog Brant Blaylock, who was pulled out of the starting lineup due to injury. Blaylock stepped in to pinch run in the bottom of the tenth for leadoff batter Erick Hoard, who started the inning with a two-out single.
“That was pretty fun. Honestly, that’s something I’ve been thinking about for two years,” Blaylock said. “I was amped. Having a chance to make an impact on the game. The biggest role I could play was pinch [run]. I came and did the best I could and managed to scratch a run across.”
Key to that moment was the pitching performances of starter Walker Powell and reliever Ryan Och.
Powell faced a pitching duel against Mississippi State’s Ethan Small, who threw a career-high of 13 strikeouts and allowed just one hit.
“[Small] was shoving it,” Powell said. “I had to match him as best as I could and keep our team in it. It makes it fun. A lot more competitive. Every pitch matters in games like that. It keeps you on your toes. It’s a lot of fun to play in.”
Small retired Southern Miss in order five times while Powell retired the Bulldogs four times. In 7.2 innings pitched, Powell gave up five hits, struck out two and kept Mississippi State off the board.
“A lot of soft contacts, that’s what my goal was,” Powell said. “I did a pretty solid job at that. They definitely had some hard-hit balls for sure. I give credit to them.”
Och capitalized on Powell’s performance and preserved the team’s shutout.
“Knowing [Walker] threw a hell of a game [and] just go in, pass the torch to me and just keep throwing,” Och said. “Follow in his footsteps. I have a great defense behind me. I trust them all.”
Och recorded the win and in 2.1 innings of work gave up just two hits and struck out two batters.
“[Och’s performance] was big,” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said. “I think he showed us enough. Kind of sneaky, quick and he really attacks the zone and you saw that today.”
Game 2 will be moved to a 12 p.m. start on Saturday despite the 90 percent chance of rain scheduled in the forecast. Berry said that his team explained that his team would be ready to play regardless of the game times.
“When they say play ball that’s what we’ll do,” Berry said. “One thing that we try to do is control what we can control and not worry about what we can’t. The last thing that was said to the team was that the most important game now is the next game. When they say play ball that’s what well do. Well, get some rest between now and then but we got to be mature about what we’ve done so far and ready to compete on this next one.”