BOCA RATON, Fla. - Through eight innings, every run but one scored in Friday night's Conference USA baseball game between the University of Southern Mississippi and Florida Atlantic University came via a home run.
Then came the bottom of the ninth inning, and the final and deciding run scored on a ball that never made it into play.
Cody Wilson led off the ninth with a triple off the top of the right-field wall, and after two intentional walks, scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch as the Owls claimed a 6-5 victory over the 15th-ranked Golden Eagles at FAU Baseball Stadium.
USM (15-5, 2-1 C-USA) saw its bullpen give up a 4-2 lead after six innings and, in the process, had a seven-game winning streak come to an end.
FAU (17-5, 3-1), which defeated the University of Miami earlier in the week with a grand slam capping a six-run ninth inning, snapped a four-game losing streak against the Golden Eagles.
In a matchup of two of C-USA's top pitchers in USM right-hander Nick Sandlin (3-0, 1.32 ERA) and FAU left-hander Jake Meidnik (4-1, 1.95 ERA), home runs became the coin of the realm Friday.
Tyler Frank led off the game with a shot down the left-field line for his fifth home of the season to give the Owls a 1-0 lead.
But USM hit home runs in three consecutive innings off Meidnik to build a 4-1 lead.
Luke Reynolds hit his fifth of the season to right field to tie the game in the fourth inning, LeeMarcus Boyd hit his second of the year to left field to give the Golden Eagles a 2-1 lead in the fifth and Hunter Slater followed a walk to Matt Wallner with a blast over the center-field wall for his third of the season and a 4-1 USM lead.
It marked the first time that the Golden Eagles had hit home runs in three consecutive innings since March 2010 at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
The Owls nicked Sandlin for a run in the sixth on a hit batter, an infield single, a walk and a sacrifice fly to pull within 4-2.
Both starting pitchers went six innings. Sandlin allowed two runs on three hits, while walking three and striking out five. Meidnik allowed four runs on five hits, walking three and striking out five.
But with one out in the bottom of the seventh, reliever Jarod Wright gave up consecutive singles and Frank followed his second home run of the game to give the Owls a 5-4 lead.
Reynolds quickly tied the game with a solo shot to open the eighth inning off FAU reliever Matt Harris. Reynolds' sixth home run of the season gave him his second, multiple home run game of the year.
In the top of the ninth, FAU closer Zach Schneider (2-0) gave up a single and a walk, but got a grounder to third to end the inning and strand USM runners at second and third.
Keys (1-2), who got the final out of the eighth inning, took the loss in the ninth without recording an out.
The teams will square off at 3 p.m. Saturday in the second game of the three-game series.