Matt Wallner tripled, homered and drove in four runs to lead No. 17 Southern Miss to a 15-4 Conference USA series-opening victory over FIU Fridaynight at Pete Taylor Park.
The Golden Eagles (25-6 overall, 9-1 C-USA) won for the 16th time in the last 18 games and continued to hold on to first place in league play.
Mason Irby led the Golden Eagles with four hits, while Dylan Burdeaux, Wallner, Daniel Keating and LeeMarcus Boyd added two hits each in the squad’s 16-hit attack.
Wallner got Southern Miss on the board in the first with a solo home run to right, his team-leading 10th of the year.
After FIU answered with a two-run shot to left by Zack Soria, his third, the Golden Eagles exploded for five runs and never trailed again in the game.
The Panthers (17-13, 5-5) registered an out, before FIU starter Chris Mourelle hit Burdeaux and then followed by giving up singles to both Irby and Hunter Slater, who drove in the first run. A walk to Braley loaded the bases before Wallner jumped on a Mourelle pitched down the rightfield line to clear the bases. Wallner then scored on a wild pitch to make the score 6-2.
“He’s a guy that can really hurt you,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “He’s got a great approach and doesn’t really get himself out. He’s hard to pitch to and he’s seeing the ball really well.”
The Golden Eagles went on to score in six different innings and put the game away with five more runs in the eighth.
Southern Miss registered six hits in the eighth and Storme Cooper opened the scoring with a bases-loaded walk. Burdeaux added an RBI single before Irby knocked in two more with a single of his own. Pinch hitter Matthew Guidry knocked in the final run with a single through the left side.
Kirk McCarty gave up all four runs on six hits over seven innings with six strikeouts and no walks to capture the victory and improve to 5-2 on the year. Both Alex Nelms and Sean Tweedy added scored innings down the stretch.
Mourelle got tagged for seven runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts over four innings to suffer the loss and fall to 2-2.
The two teams continue the series with a 2 p.m., contest Saturday.