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|Bowden flying high again|
Coming out of a game is never an easy thing for a pitcher. Leaving a game after five innings without giving up a hit is even tougher.
On Sunday, Vidalia's Barry Bowden, making his second start since injuring a muscle in his right shoulder on April 5, was as close to perfect as possible against Conference USA foe Memphis. He threw five innings without allowing a hit and walking only one, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before issuing a walk to KK Chambers with two outs in the fourth inning. In his five innings of work he struck out six Tiger hitters and lowered his Conference USA leading ERA to 1.50.
USM head coach Corky Palmer said there was no hesitation to pull Bowden after he threw 53 pitches over five innings. Southern Miss ended up winning the game 13-0 in seven innings.
Brian Leach worked the final two innings allowing the only hit of the game in the seventh and final inning while striking out one.
"The pitch count is the big thing," Palmer said. "We've got a big series coming up this weekend and I took Barry out because I want him to be able to pitch Friday and get back into his regular rotation. We did the right thing, making sure he was in good shape before he returned to the mound. He's headed in the right direction. I thought he was even more impressive in his second outing than he was in his first one since the injury. He had good command of his pitches, he was ahead in the count and when he does that, then you know his arm is feeling fine. This is a shot in the arm for our program to have him back pitching like this."
Bowden admitted it was tough leaving a game where he had not given up a hit.
"Coach Palmer asked me after the fourth inning if he took me out after the fifth inning if I would be able to pitch Friday," Bowden said. "That's why I came out. I had to look at the big picture. I'm trying to bounce back from an injury and get back to full strength."
Since returning to the mound Bowden (7-2, 1.50 earned run average) has made two starts picking up two wins in nine innings of work, allowing only two hits and striking out 14 batters.
"I've just tried to hit my spots and not overdo it," Bowden said. "I just came back thinking I've got to do things the way I've been doing them and pitch my game. Fortunately, everything has been positive so far. My velocity is a little down, but I'm still building my strength back up.
"I couldn't ask for a better time to come back," Bowden said. "Everybody is excited about us playing in a regional and having to chance to be a host team. Hopefully I can help bring a regional to Hattiesburg and get to a Super Regional and Omaha."
USM finishes its Conference USA regular season schedule at Alabama-Birmingham this weekend before competing in the C-USA championship tournament beginning May 21 in New Orleans.
"Without Barry we have no chance of getting deep into the postseason," Palmer said. "He is a difference-maker. He's as good a pitcher as we have had here."
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