Southern Miss opens season with shutout win over Liberty

USM opens 2023 baseball season with one-hit shutout of Liberty
Published: Feb. 18, 2023 at 12:03 AM CST
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From University of Southern Mississippi Sports Information

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Blake Johnson went three-for-three and All-American pitcher Tanner Hall threw five shutout innings as the University of Southern Mississippi blanked Liberty University 3-0 in both team’s season opener Friday afternoon at Pete Taylor Park.

The Golden Eagles captured their ninth-straight season opener and their first shutout on opening day since defeating Murray State 6-0 to start the 2020 campaign.

Johnson got the Golden Eagles going with a leadoff walk to start the second inning off of ASUN Preseason Pitcher of the Year Garrett Horn.

Horn hit Gabe Lacy with a pitch before newcomer Matthew Etzel singled though the right side to score Johnson for the game’s first run.

Johnson then added a solo home run in the fourth inning with a shot to left-center field to increase the Golden Eagle lead, before Christopher Sargent drove in the team’s final run on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice in the fifth inning to complete the game’s scoring.

Hall, along with relievers Tyler Martin and Justin Storm, limited Liberty to one hit.. An infield chopper by Victor Castillo in the fifth inning was one of only three baserunners Hall allowed to reach base in his outing.

The junior from Zachary, La., also surrendered a couple of walks with five strikeouts as he registered the victory.

Martin, a transfer from the University of Nebraska, went three scoreless innings, giving up a walk with three strikeouts, while Storm threw a perfect ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts to earn his first career save.

Horn left after four innings for the Flames. He surrendered two runs on two hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to suffer the loss.

Six Liberty pitchers did collect 16 strikeouts in the outing and Southern Miss stranded 13 baserunners in the games, including leaving the bases loaded three times.

Johnson collected three of the Golden Eagles’ eight hits, while Etzel added two.

The two teams continue the three-game at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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