Colt Smith turned in another quality effort in his second career start Friday night and Daniel Keating drove in a pair of runs as No. 19 Southern Miss defeated the UAB, 5-2, at Pete Taylor Park.
The Golden Eagles (38-12, 20-5 Conference USA) won their eighth consecutive game in winning the opening game of the best-of-three series with the Blazers (23-27, 8-17).
The win left league-leading Southern Miss 3 ½ games ahead of Old Dominion, which is the only team that can catch the Golden Eagles with five games left in the C-USA regular season.
Smith, who pitched seven shutout innings last week in his Friday night debut, gave up only an unearned run on four hits over six hits against UAB. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
“I’m just thankful to be getting an opportunity out there to show them what I’ve got,” said Smith, who improved to 5-0. “I just go out there and try and throw strikes and let the defense work. That’s all I’m trying to do.
Stevie Powers pitched the final three innings, allowing an unearned run on one hit, to pick up his second save of the season.
The Golden Eagles collected 10 hits, with Taylor Braley, LeeMarcus Boyd and Mason Irby cracking two apiece.
But USM also left 16 men on base, the most the Golden Eagles have stranded since the first game of a doubleheader with East Carolina University on May 10, 2014.
“We talked about leaving 16 guys on, but that being said, even though we didn’t cash in on a lot of those runners, we ran the pitch count up on (UAB left-hander Thomas Lowery),” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “It was a good team win.”
Southern Miss took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Matt Wallner’s sacrifice fly and Keating’s run-scoring double down the left-field line. The Golden Eagles made it 3-0 in the fourth inning on Keating’s sacrifice fly.
UAB snapped a scoreless streak by Smith at 19 1/3 innings when the Blazers scored an unearned run in a fifth inning that included a single and two errors. The run scored on strikeout-wild pitch that allowed Antonio Ralat to reach first and Colton Schultz to score from third base.
USM got the run back plus one in the seventh. Boyd doubled in the first run and then came around to score on a pair of wild pitches.
UAB nicked Powers for a run in the eighth on an infield single and two-base throwing error followed by Pierce Ressmeyer’s sacrifice fly.