HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Andrew Pierce recorded 11 strikeouts and scattered three hits to help Southern Miss (26-22, 10-9) to a Conference USA series opening 1-0 win over No. 30 East Carolina (32-17-1, 13-8-1) Friday night at Henson Field inside Pete Taylor Park.
Pierce (7-3) issued one walk and allowed one runner to reach second base, while tossing his second complete game of the season. The right-hander fanned at least one batter in seven of nine innings, including the side in the top of the first.
Southern Miss plated the lone run of the game in the seventh inning on a single by Isaac Rodriguez that plated Ashley Graeter from second. With two outs in the frame, Graeter sent a soft grounder to third where Corey Thompson fielded the ball and threw wide of Chase McDonald at first. Graeter landed on second and came home on Rodriguez’ single back up the middle.
ECU’s Kevin Brandt (6-5) got the short end of the stick after tossing his third complete game of his senior season – all three in losing efforts – where he also scattered three hits on the night. The southpaw struck out six, walked one and allowed one run (unearned) in his 12th quality start of the season. Brandt retired 18 of his first 19 batters through the sixth inning and faced 28 hitters, four over the minimum on the night.
Despite recording just three hits, ECU had seven runner reach base in the contest – four to start a frame. In the second inning with one out, Zach Wright reached on a walk and took second on the first of two Jack Reinheimer singles. But Pierce got out of the jam retiring Philip Clark and McDonald via strikeout (looking).
Ben Fultz reached to start the third when he was plunked by a pitch, but Drew Reynolds ground into an inning ending double play. To start the fifth, Reinheimer singled up the middle, but the Pirates were once again unable to get anything going offensively as Clark failed to get a bunt down and struck out for the second time of the night. McDonald followed by flying out to center and Fultz rolled over on a pitch sending a grounder to second to end the frame.
To start the sixth and seventh stanza’s ECU’s leadoff hitter reached on Southern Miss errors. Tim Younger reached on Travis Creel’s eighth error of the season at third, but Pierce forced Reynolds into a double play to squash any threat. In the seventh, John Wooten reached on an error by Graeter and was thrown out trying to steal second with one out.
The Pirates will look to even the series Saturday morning when the two teams meet at 11 a.m. (EST). Game time was originally set for 3 p.m. (EST), but the threat of inclement weather pushed the start time up. Freshman Jeff Hoffman (2-1, 2.58 ERA) will make his first start in C-USA action when he toes the rubber for the Pirates, while Southern Miss will counter with Jake Drehoff (6-2, 3.12 ERA).