First-place Southern Miss will have its ace on the mound for the biggest Conference USA series of the season.
Senior left-hander Kirk McCarty left last Friday's start with arm soreness after just one inning of work, putting his status in question for this weekend's series against second-place FAU. McCarty's MRI came back clear on Tuesday, but it was still uncertain whether he'd be ready to pitch against the Owls.
On Thursday, USM announced that McCarty will be the starting pitcher for Saturday's 2 p.m. contest at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg.
McCarty, who made All-Conference USA as a sophomore, is 7-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 11 starts this season.
USM (34-12, 16-5) holds a one-game lead on FAU (29-13-1, 15-6) in the C-USA standings with nine games remaining on the conference slate for both teams. Old Dominion (30-13, 14-7) and Charlotte (27-17, 14-7) are tied for third place.
USM also revealed that junior right-hander Colt Smith (3-0, 3.26) will make his first start of the season at 6 p.m. on Friday. Smith replaced McCarty after an inning of work last Friday and lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on eight hits. He struck out four and walked four.
Smith has been USM's most effective relief pitcher in recent weeks, making 17 total appearances out of the bullpen.
Junior right-hander Taylor Braley will start Sunday's 1 p.m. contest. He is 4-2 with a 4.21 ERA.
FAU is set to throw right-hander Alex House Jr. (5-2, 4.52) on Friday and lefty Jake Miednik Jr. (5-4, 5.70) on Sunday. Saturday's starter for FAU is to be determined.
FAU suffered a setback in its weekend rotation last week when Mark Nowatnick suffered a season-ending injury during a celebration at the end of a 9-8 win over FIU on Saturday, according to FAUOwlAccess.com. Nowatnick (5-0, 2.40) suffered a cracked bone in his foot while he was piled on during the celebration.
Sophomore Tyler Frank leads FAU with a .341 batting average. He also has eight homers, 36 RBIs and 45 runs scored.
Junior outfielder Mason Irby leads USM in batting average at .350. He also has 45 runs scored and 31 RBIs.
Freshman outfielder/pitcher Matt Wallner set the USM freshman record for home runs in a season last week with 14. He is batting .345 with 46 RBIs.
The C-USA Tournament is set for May 24-28 at MGM Park in Biloxi.
Who: Southern Miss baseball vs. FAU
When: 6 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday; 1 p.m., Sunday
Where: Pete Taylor Park, Hattiesburg
Radio: WPMO-1580 AM