MIAMI, FL - LeeMarcus Boyd's home run in the fifth inning helped break open a tight game Sunday and the University of Southern Mississippi ended the contest early with an eight-run, seventh inning to take a 13-1 win over Florida International University at Infinity Insurance Park.
Mason Strickland made his first career start and combined with J.C. Keys on a four-hitter as the 12th-ranked Golden Eagles claimed their ninth consecutive Conference USA series by winning the rubber match of the three-game match-up.
Boyd, who had three hits and scored three runs, smacked a two-run homer in a three-run, fifth inning as the Golden Eagles (24-11, 10-4) opened up a 5-1 lead on the Panthers (17-19, 7-8).
USM sealed the game in the seventh, sending 13 batters to the plate and scoring eight runs on six hits, two FIU errors, two walks and a wild pitch. After Keys set down the Panthers in order in the bottom of the inning, the game was called on the conference's 10-run rule.
Strickland (1-0) allowed a run on four hits over the first four innings, walking none and striking out three. Keys picked up his first career save with three hitless innings, walking one and striking out four.
The Panthers scored runs against USM pitching in just two of the weekend's 25 innings.
The Golden Eagles grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning off FIU starter Nick MacDonald (2-3) when Mason Irby walked, Boyd doubled and both scored on Gabe Montenegro's two-run single.
FIU cut the lead in half in the fourth inning. Eddie Silva led off with a double, went to third on Logan Allen's single and scored on Christian Khawam's single to get the Panthers within 2-1.
USM answered immediately. Cole Donaldson singled, and after Irby struck out, Boyd launched his his fourth home run of the season for a 4-1 lead.
After Montenegro flied out, Matthew Guidry singled and Luke Reynolds followed with a run-scoring double for a four-run lead.
Two innings later, USM preyed on three FIU pitchers in the game's final frame. Boyd singled to start the inning off MacDonald, who threw away Montenegro's sacrifice bunt, sending Boyd to third.
Guidry, who had three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored, drove in Boyd with a single and Reynolds knocked in Montenegro with a single for a 7-1 lead.
MacDonald gave way to reliever Christian Santana, who promptly uncorked a wild pitch to score Guidry before allowing a single to Matt Wallner, putting men on first and third.
After Hunter Slater struck out, Casey Maack's grounder to third was botched allowing Reynolds to score for a 9-1 lead. Donaldson walked to load the bases, and Irby followed with a two-run single to make the score 11-1.
Chandler Raiden relieved Santana, and struck out Boyd for the second out, but Montenegro walked to re-load the bases, and Guidry followed with his second hit of the inning, a two-run single, for a 13-1 lead.
MacDonald went six innings, allowing nine runs (six earned) on nine hits, walking three and striking out nine.
Reynolds finished with two hits and two RBIs for USM, while Irby and Donaldson each scored a pair of runs.
The Golden Eagles will wrap up a five-game road swing at 6 p.m. Tuesday when they visit Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La.