HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ Hunter Stanley likely laid to rest to any questions surrounding his transition from ending baseball games at the University of Southern Mississippi to starting them.
Stanley, who spent his first two seasons in black and gold coming out the bullpen as a relief pitcher, dominated Northwestern State University over six shutout innings Sunday afternoon to help lead the Golden Eagles to a 5-1 victory in the 2021 season opener for both schools.
“As a team, thought we played really well,” Stanley said after his first career start for USM. “Thought me and (reliever) Aubrey (Gillentine) did a good job commanding the (strike) zone.
“We established the fastball early before we started spinning it more the next few times through the (batting) order.”
The nightcap was a near role reversal, as four Demons limited USM (1-1) to two hits, struck out 12 Golden Eagles and stranded 11 as Northwestern (1-1) took the nightcap 7-1.
“After that first game, we had the momentum, but Northwestern did a good job taking away that momentum,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “We didn’t do anything during that game to get any momentum back.
“Offensively, we did not compete well enough to be in that ballgame.”
Four USM pitchers combined to tie the school record of 19 strikeouts in a single game, with Ben Etherdige suppyling 12 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings pitched.
But the Golden Eagles also allowed 12 hits, including four doubles and a home run.
Southern Miss 5, Northwestern St. 1
Stanley allowed only one hit, a two-out double in the second inning by Northwestern first baseman Cameron Horton, and walked just one.
He struck out 13, including retiring the side in the first and fifth innings by strikeout.
The strikeouts were the most by an opening-day pitcher during Berry’s tenure, surpassing the 11 whiffs of Christian Talley (2015) and Hayden Roberts (2017).
He became the first Golden Eagle to record 13 strikeouts in a game since Nick Sandlin turned the trick against Rice University on March 30, 2018.
“Stanley, he was the difference in that first game,” Berry said.
Stanley (1-0) used a fastball in the lower 90s early on before mixing in more of his breaking repertoire, including a recently-developed change-up. He was pulled after throwing 83 pitches.
“It felt good,” Stanley said. “I’ve always been one to get (looser) as we go.
“We built my pitch count up this fall and early spring, so I felt like I was prepared.”
Gillentine picked up his first career save, throwing the final three innings and allowing a run on two hits.
One of those hits was Kendall Foster’s two-out solo homer in the eighth inning.
By that time, USM held a 5-0 lead.
Gabe Montenegro led off the 2021 season with a double. Moved to third base on Reed Trimble’s flyout and scored on a sacrifice fly by newcomer Brad Sargent, who would drive in two runs in his USM debut.
The Golden Eagles made it 3-0 when Will McGillis walked with one out and the former Danny Lynch, now known as D.J. Lynch, just cleared the fence to the right of the center-field for his first home run of the year.
USM tacked on two more runs in the seventh inning on Montenegro’s RBI-single and Sargent’s double through third base.
Northwestern starter Johnathan Harmon (0-1) took the loss, allowing three runs on three hits. He walked two, striking out one.
Dustin Dickerson and Montenegro each had two hits.
Northwestern St. 7, Southern Miss 1
Slade Wilks’ infield single in the fourth inning was the Golden Eagles’ lone hit through eight innings.
Reece Ewing opened the bottom of the ninth inning with a double off the wall in right-center field, and USM pinch-hitter Billy Garrity walked. That gave the Golden Eagles runners at first and second with nobody out.
But as it had throughout the game, USM could not capitalize on its opportunities, failing to score after recording three, quick outs.
Twice earlier, USM had the bases loaded and could not get the key hit. In another inning, the Golden Eagles had runners on first and second with two outs and could not get the big hit.
The only USM came across on a passed ball with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
“The competitive side of us just didn’t show up in that second game,” Berry said.
Northwestern got to USM freshman starter Chandler Best (0-1), who allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings.
“Northwestern State took advantage of some pitches that were up,” Berry said.
Designated hitter Marshall Skinner had three hits and drove in a pair of runs with a double and two singles.
Foster homered is his second consecutive game, and joined Cam Sibley and Duante Stuart with two hits apiece. Sibley doubled and singled, while Stuart had two singles.
Skinner, Foster and Hilton Brown each drove in two runs.
Alex Makarewich (1-0), the second of the Demons’ four pitchers, picked up the win. He allowed USM’s only run, but didn’t give up a hit in 2 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out four.
The Demons issued 10 walks in the second game, but also struck out a dozen Golden Eagles.
The teams will meet at noon Monday in the rubber match of the three games series