– A pair of Southern Miss errors in the ninth inning broke open a close contest and FIU scored seven unearned runs to defeat Southern Miss 9-1 here Friday night at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field in both team's Conference USA opener.
The Golden Eagles (9-7-1, 0-1 C-USA) had a two-game winning streak snapped in what was the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The two teams continue the series with a 2 p.m., contest on Saturday.
In what was a tightly contested game for eight innings turned into a lopsided affair with the seven runs in the ninth helping the Panthers (9-9, 1-0) pull away.
"We've just got to get ready to play tomorrow," said Southern Miss coach Scott Berry. "It's a three-game series, not a one-game series. Tomorrow is the most important game on our schedule. FIU came in and played better than we did."
Southern Miss had been solid defensively in the contest, turning a season-high tying three double plays, including twin killings that ended the second and third frames.
FIU scratched across the first run in the top of the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Edwin Rios, before the home squad tied the game with a run-scoring single by Matt Durst, who hit safely for the ninth time in the last 10 games.
The Panthers then took the lead for good in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Brian Portelli, before exploding in the final frame.
FIU took advantage of two infield errors and sent 11 men to the plate in the final frame, scoring on just four hits, a hit batsmen and an intentional walk.
"It doesn't matter if you lose by one run or lose by eight runs," Berry said. "It's a loss and that's not what we're here to do. We have to find a way to put more offensive pressure on them than we did."
Southern Miss could not score on Panther starting pitcher Cody Crouse (2-1), who allowed five hits and a run while striking out one and walking three over seven innings.
Southern Miss starting pitcher Christian Talley worked seven innings and allowed no earned runs while striking out five, walking two and giving up six hits. Luke Lowery (2-2), who pitched in relief of Talley in the eighth, took the loss.
"Overall I thought (Talley) pitched well and gave us an opportunity to win," Berry said. "I thought he made some adjustments from his prior outings, when he started off slow. Today, he had the ability to manipulate the bat in their hand and throw three double-play balls."