HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Kirk McCarty turned in yet another workman-like performance on the pitching mound and freshman Matt Wallner crossed another milestone off the list Saturday afternoon at Taylor Park as the University of Southern Mississippi took a 9-2 victory over the University of Evansville.
USM (5-1) scored in each of the first four innings and Wallner hit the first home run of his collegiate career in the sixth inning as the Golden Eagles clinched a second, consecutive weekend series with their second consecutive victory over the Purple Aces (1-5).
McCarty wasn't as dazzling Saturday as he was in his 2017 debut, when he allowed just two hits and one walk in seven, shutout innings.
But McCarty (2-0) proved plenty good enough, allowing two runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings, with four walks and seven strikeouts.
"Anytime he takes the mound, you feel like you have a chance to win," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said.
By the time McCarty was lifted, the Golden Eagles had built a 6-2 lead.
Evansville right-hander Patrick Schnieders (0-1), who earned Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week after throwing five hitless innings with 11 strikeouts last week at the University of Central Arkansas, was gone after four innings.
USM took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on left fielder Hunter Slater's single and then made it 2-0 in the second on doubles by catcher Bryant Bowen and first baseman Dylan Burdeaux.
The Purple Aces made it 2-1 on a run-scoring single by center fielder Kenton Crews in the top of the third inning, but the Golden Eagles tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the inning, including one on an RBI-single by Bowen.
USM went up 6-1 and finished Schnieders' evening in the fourth inning when Evansville right fielder Korbin Williams dropped a fly ball for an error that scored two runs.
McCarty got in trouble in the sixth. With one out, third baseman Conner Hasecuster and Crews singled, and McCarty followed with back-to-back walks to shortstop Stewart Nelson and second baseman Trey Hair.
At that point, the Golden Eagles turned to their closer Nick Sandlin, who usually works a game's latter innings, and he came through with back-to-back strikeouts to avert further damage.
"That was (pitching coach Michael Federico's) call and it was a great call," Berry said. "Sandlin's a guy that has that punch-out ability, and with the bases loaded, we had to calm that storm.
"Nick Sandlin, he's seasoned for it and certainly wants that opportunity."
Wallner all-but-doused any thoughts of an Evansville rally when he crushed a three-run home run to right-center field off reliever Jimmy Ward.
It was another "first" for Wallner, who smacked a double in his first collegiate plate appearance on Feb. 17 and then picked up the win in USM's 14-10 victory Friday with two scoreless innings of relief.
"It was a fastball, and pretty much down the middle, so it was kind of hard to look for something else," Wallner said. "I appreciate that I got a hit in my first at-bat, so that was awesome to get that off my shoulders, and then last night, to get on the mound, I was definitely pretty antsy to get out there.
"And now, (Saturday), my first home run, that was just a lot of fun."
The teams will wrap up the series at 1 p.m. Sunday, with USM expected to throw freshman right-hander Cody Carroll (0-1, 20.25 ERA) against Evansville junior right-hander Justin Hayden (1-0, 3.18 ERA).