If you can’t score, you can’t win.
Xavier left-hander Zac Lowther allowed just one hit and four baserunners in six innings, and two relievers combined to polish off a 2-0 victory over Southern Miss Friday night at Pete Taylor Park.
The Golden Eagles (9-4) were shut out for the first time in 36 games, going back to a 12-0 loss on April 19, 2016, at Tulane.
“Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to that other guy,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “He did a great job.”
Left-hander Kirk McCarty, who pitched under Friday night lights for the first time this season, tied a career-high with nine strikeouts during the longest stint by a USM starting pitcher this season (eight innings).
But the Musketeers (7-7) nicked McCarty for a run in the first inning on Nate Monastra’s single and another singleton in the second on a fielder’s choice grounder by Will Larue.
From that point on, Lowther (2-2) and McCarty (2-2) allowed only a hit apiece until they were lifted, but the damage had been done.
“For me, at the end of the day, you look back and it’s ‘Did we win or did we lose?’” McCarty said. “So, I’ll handle it the same way I did last week, but it ate me.
“Pitch well, pitch bad, if your team loses, it’s going to eat at you. If it doesn’t, you’re playing the wrong game and you’re not competitive.”
Berry lamented a lost opportunity for the Golden Eagles in the second inning, when Lowther issued consecutive walks to third baseman Taylor Braley and designated hitter Daniel Keating.
When both moved up on a sacrifice bunt by center fielder Matt Wallner, the Golden Eagles had runners on second base and third base with one pout.
But Lowther struck out shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd and right fielder Mason Irby grounded out to first base to end the threat.
“We had a chance to get that momentum back, a piece of that momentum, and we didn’t,” Berry said. “And, we never did the whole night.”
Lowther struck out seven and walked two before exiting, giving way to relievers Matt Kent and Taylor Williams, who combined to allow just three hits over three innings. Williams picked up his third save with a one-hit, one-strikeout scoreless ninth.
Wallner led USM hitters with a double and single, while shortstop Mitch Gallagher had two hits for the Musketeers.
Expected inclement weather has caused the final two games of the series to be played Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. at Taylor Park.