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|Bowden recovering from blow to jaw|
It was a baseball game, but it might as well have been a Mixed Martial Arts match for Vidalia native Barry Bowden.
Bowden, the Burlington Bees' top relief pitcher, took the mound in the eighth inning Sunday with his team trailing Ft. Wayne, 11-5.
He allowed one unearned run on two hits recording two outs before Dan Robertson stepped into the batter's box for Ft. Wayne and hit a sharp grounder right back to Bowden on the mound.
"I actually thought I caught it," Bowden said Tuesday. "It was a one-hopper, but took a bad hop in front of the mound and hit me pretty solid on the jaw. I went straight down and was seeing stars for a second. It actually knocked me out temporarily. I finally came to and it was swelling up within five seconds."
Bowden was taken to the emergency room where X-rays revealed no broken bones. He then paid a visit to a dentist, who found nerve damage.
"Fortunately it hit right behind my teeth on my jawbone," Bowden said. "It may lead to a root canal in the future. I have to go back for a checkup."
Bowden said Burlington coaches considered putting him on the 7-day disabled list, but with a day off today (Wednesday), they decided against it.
"I'm taking Wednesday off and throwing out of the bullpen on Thursday," Bowden said. "Hopefully I will be able to pitch Friday or Saturday."
Which is a good thing for the Bees as Bowden has been solid most of the season. He is 0-1 with a team-best 2.11 earned run average through 17 games. He leads the team with five saves and has 26 strikeouts and seven walks.
"I had a couple of bad innings, but for the most part I've been doing well," he said.
As far as entering a game behind 11-5 and suffering a freak injury.
"It was just one of them days," Bowden said. "I go into every game as if it is 1-1 or 2-1. It is kind of harder to get in the right mindset when the score is like it was. But esvery time they give me the ball I go out to try and do my best."
Burlington was Midwest League champions in 2008. The Bees went from being the worst team in the division in the first half to winning the second half by 3.5 games. The Bees' final regular season record was 73-65. The team played its best baseball in the final month of the season. Including the playoffs, the Bees had a record of 27-9 since the start of August.
Bowden was promoted from the Burlington (N.C.) Royals short season Class A team to the high Class A Burlington (Iowa) Bees after the Royals finished their season.
Bowden left North Carolina with a 3-2 record and 1.86 earned run average. He had 40 strikeouts over 29 innings.
Bowden pitched 5.1 innings with the Bees before the playoffs, allowing two hits over two games, striking out seven and walking none while allowing no hits.
"I have received a lot of positive input," Bowden said. "The coaches have really helped me out. I just need to go back and continue what I've been doing most of the season."
Bowden was Southern Mississippi's top pitcher last year as the Golden Eagles won 42 games and advanced to their sixth consecutive NCAA Regional. Bowden earned All-American honors for the Golden Eagles, who were eliminated by LSU in the Baton Rouge Regional.
Bowden is second in career starts at USM with 52 and fourth in wins with 22. He ranks third in innings pitched with 302 and fourth in strikeouts with 283.
Southern Miss gave head coach Corky Palmer his first NCAA regional championship in his final season at the helm. The Golden Eagles put up nine runs in the second inning thanks to two towering home runs by freshman B.A. Vollmuth and held on to beat top-seeded Georgia Tech 12-8 Monday night to win the Atlanta Regional.
The victory puts USM in a Super Regional against Florida. The best-of-three series will be played in Gainesville, Fla., with Game 1 slated for Saturday.
"That's unbelievable," Bowden said. "They've had injuries to Brian Dozier, Bo Davis and James Ewing and battled through it. I give them all the credit. They came through when they need to in the Regional. I'm sure if you ask anybody who played last year if they would go back to experience that they would say no doubt about it. It's just great for Coach Palmer."
Bowden was excited to hear USM assistant coach Scott Berry was named to replace Palmer.
Berry has been Palmer's right-hand man for the last nine seasons at Southern Miss, and it is no coincidence that the school is in the midst of the most successful run in school history advancing to six consecutive NCAA regionals.
"As good of a coach as he is, he is an even better man," Bowden said of Berry. "For me personally, he built confidence in me every time I took the mound and he helped me become a better pitcher every day. I'm happy for him."
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