HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - After two innings Friday night at Pete Taylor Park, the University of Southern Mississippi had strolled to a 6-0 lead over visiting Middle Tennessee State University.
The 13th-ranked Golden Eagles took advantage of MTSU starter Jake Wyrick's wildness, mixing six walks in with three hits to build an early lead on the way to a 9-1 Conference USA victory over the Blue Raiders.
USM (26-11, 11-4 C-USA) won its third consecutive game while handing the Blue Raiders (20-18, 6-9-1) their first loss in four games.
USM starting pitcher Stevie Powers (4-1) went eight innings, scattering five hits, walking one and striking out a career-high 12 batters as he won his second consecutive Friday night C-USA game. Reliever Keller Bradford allowed two hits in the ninth inning, but got two pop-ups to work out of a first-and-third, one-out jam.
Matt Wallner hit his 11th home run of the season and Daniel Keating had a bases-loaded triple in his first at-bat since April Fool's Day and finished with three hits
The Golden Eagles had 12 hits against Wyrick (1-3) and reliever Grant Williams, giving USM at least 10 hits in its last four games.
With the expectation of inclement weather Sunday, the teams will wrap up the series Saturday with a doubleheader.
The first game will start at 1:30 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than the originally-scheduled 2 p.m. start. The second game will begin about 45 minutes at the conclusion of the opener.
USM loaded the bases with one out in the first inning on two walks sandwiched around a single by Luke Reynolds. Hunter Slater struck out for the second out, but Keating hit a fly to shallow right that plopped down in front of diving right fielder Blake Benefield.
As the ball slipped behind him, Keating sped around the bases, and when Benefield's throw eluded third baseman Kevin Sullivan, Keating scored to give USM a 4-0 lead.
USM loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of walks sandwiched around LeeMarcus Boyd's infield single. Reynolds' walked to force in a run and Boyd scored on a wild pitch for a 6-0 lead.
MTSU touched up Powers for its only run in the fifth. Drew Huff drew Powers' lone walk of the night with two outs and Myles Christian followed with a two-run double into the left-center field gap.
The Golden Eagles answered immediately, tacking on two runs in the bottom of the inning on Boyd's sacrifice fly and Matthew Guidry's run-scoring single.
Wallner led off the sixth inning with a first-pitch blast over the fence in right-center for the 30th home run of his career. Wallner has hit double-digit home runs in his first two seasons as a Golden Eagle.
Wyrick went four innings, allowing seven runs on six hits, walking seven and striking out four. Williams went the final four innings, allowing two runs on six hits.