HATTIESBURG -- Southern Miss sophomore Taylor Braley jumped on the first pitch he saw in the season opener and sparked the Golden Eagles to a season-opening win Friday at Pete Taylor Park.
Braley cleared the center field wall for a solo homer to start the bottom of the second to tie the game 1-1 and help send USM to a 6-1 victory over Eastern Illinois.
"I was really excited," Braley said. "I did what we've been working on ever since the offseason. Coach has been talking about impact baseball, being ready to hit. I jumped on the first pitch."
Braley had a 2-for-5 day at the plate, a good sign for the Oak Grove product after struggling in the late stages of the 2015 season following a red-hot start.
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Senior right-hander Cord Cockrell (1-0) pitched well in the opening day start for the Golden Eagles.
He gave up no earned runs on six hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked none.
"My sinker worked really well for me today," Cockrell said. "A lot of the right-handers were swinging over the top of it. That made all the other pitches work out that much better."
USM received plenty of production from the bottom of its lineup with No. 7 batter Chuckie Robinson, No. 8 hitter Jake Sandlin and No. 9 Nick Dawson combining to go 7-for-11 with four runs scored and two RBIs.
The Golden Eagles had 14 hits total before a nice, opening-day crowd of 3,081 for a game that started at 4 p.m.
"We've got a lot of guys can hit," Braley said. "We've even got guys not playing that can hit. That will work to our advantage. When somebody starts slacking, you can put somebody in that's just as good."
Sandlin, who was a Division II All-American with 14 homers at Georgia College last year, was 3-for-4 with a solo homer, two runs scored and one RBI.
"I'm real proud of him," Berry said. "He comes from a really good program, Georgia College. To step in the arena of Division I baseball with probably 4,000 people on hand, to have the first game he had is pleasing."
Robinson, the Eagles' new starting catcher, joined Sandlin in having a 3-for-4 night at the plate. He used his bat to make up for an error in the second inning when he bobbled a toss home from Hadley, allowing Eastern Illinois to score its lone run in the second inning.
USM broke open the game in the third inning with a pair of runs on a balk and a wild pitch by EIU starting pitcher Matt Wivinis.
Dylan Burdeaux, who went 2-for-5, also had an RBI single in the inning.
Designated hitter Hunter Slater was the only Golden Eagle without a hit Friday night, going 0-for-4.
Former Pascagoula and Pearl River Community College star Tracy Hadley started at shortstop for the Golden Eagles and played well on defense. He finished 1-of-3 at the plate with his first hit as a USM player coming on a single in the eighth inning.
"It went good. I got the jitters out," Hadley said of his first game at the Division I level. "That's what I've been preparing for all fall."
Right-hander Austin Millet threw two perfect innings in relief for the Golden Eagles.
Wivinis (0-1) gave up five runs on 10 hits in five innings to take the loss. He struck out four and walked two.
Game two of the series is set for 2 p.m. today with former reliever Jake Winston, a right-hander, getting the start for the Golden Eagles. He went 1-0 with a 2.58 ERA last season.
Eastern Illinois will counter with a right-hander in Michael McCormick, who will see his first action for the team.