MURFREESBORO, TN - Taylor Braley pulled double duty Saturday afternoon against Middle Tennessee State University.
The University of Southern Mississippi junior allowed three runs over seven innings while giving the Golden Eagles a lead they never lost with a two-run home run in the first inning in a 4-3 victory over the Blue Raiders.
The victory gave No. 25 USM (33-12, 15-5 Conference USA) the first two games of the best-of-three series. It marked the fourth conference road series the Golden Eagles have won this spring as they improved to 10-1 in C-USA road games.
Unlike Friday night's 14-7 victory, Saturday turned into a nail biter late.
USM led 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, but Ryan Kemp cracked his sixth home run of the season, a two-run blast off Braley (4-2), that left the Golden Eagles nursing a one-run lead.
But Nick Sandlin picked up his fifth save of the season, allowing one hit over two scoreless innings, walking one while striking out one.
Braley allowed three runs on 10 hits over seven innings, walking two while striking out six.
The Golden Eagles USM took a 2-0 on Braley's 10th home run of the season, a two-run shot off MTSU left-hander Cody Puckett (2-3) that also scored Mason Irby.
Braley joined Matt Wallner (13 home runs) as the only Golden Eagles with double-digit home runs this season.
The Blue Raiders (20-23, 7-13) nicked Braley for a run in the bottom of the second on Brad Jarreau's infield single, but Southern Miss answered with two runs in the third inning on Dylan Burdeaux's ground out and a throwing error that allowed Irby to score moments later.
Irby, Wallner and LeeMarcus Boyd each finished with two hits for the Golden Eagles. Jarreau had three of MTSU's 11 hits, while Kemp, Aaron Aucker and Austin Dennis had two hits each.
The Golden Eagles go for the series sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday.