HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ Sophomores Gabe Shepard and Ryan Och combined on a one-hit shutout Friday evening as the University of Southern Mississippi opened the 2020 baseball season with a 6-0 victory over Murray State University at Pete Taylor Park.
The Golden Eagles (1-0) scored all their runs in the seventh inning to break a scoreless tie.
“We stayed in the middle of the ring with them, exchanged punches and finally got a big blow there in the (seventh),” USM baseball coach Scott Berry said.
The shutout was USM’s first to open a season since 2108, when the Golden Eagles topped Mississippi State University 11-0 in Hattiesburg.
Friday, Shepard and Murray State right-hander Trevor McMurray hooked up in an old-fashioned pitching duel.
McMurray allowed three singles over five shutout innings, walking two and striking out four for the Racers (0-1).
Shepard went 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two baserunners and striking out nine. He was lifted after 77 pitches.
“It wasn’t really jitters, more just being excited,” Shepard said. “I just had to calm down. I kind of let the fans and everything get to me. I just had to calm down, fill up the zone.”
Shepard went to a three-ball count only once, finishing that first-inning sequence by hitting Murray State right fielder Brock Anderson.
The only other Racer to reach off Shepard came on a clean single to short left-center by shortstop David Huddelson.
Shepard retired the final 14 batters he faced.
Och (1-0), walked the first batter he faced, then struck out left fielder Ryan Perkins to end the inning.
USM got to Murray State reliever Braydon Cook (0-1) in the bottom of the seventh inning.
USM designated hitter Charlie Fischer and center fielder Reid Trimble walked to lead off the inning, and were moved up a base each on a bunt by catcher Andrew Stanley.
Cook got a strikeout, but left fielder Gabe Montenegro walked to load the bases and right fielder Fisher Norris coaxed a two-out walk to force in USM’s first run of the game and the season.
Second baseman Matt Guidry walked on four pitches to make the score 2-0 and end Cook’s outing.
USM first baseman Bill McGillis greeted Murray State right-hander Connor Holden with a two-run single to right field and third baseman Danny Lynch made the score 5-0 with another single to right.
A double-steal allowed Brant Blaylock to come across the final run.
Och went the final 2 1/3 innings to pick up the win, allowing no hits. He walked two and struck out four.
Norris, a red-shirt freshman from Seminary High School who made his first career start, singled in the third inning for USM’s first hit of the season.
The teams will face off again at 4 p.m. Saturday at Pete Taylor Park.