HATTIESBURG, MISS. (Release via ODU Athletics) — The Old Dominion baseball team opened a key Conference USA series on Friday night with seventh-ranked Southern Mississippi by riding two of their biggest keys thus far, the starting pitching of Blake Morgan and the long ball.
 
Morgan threw seven innings with six strikeouts and allowing one run, while Robbie Petracci and Matt Coutney each had solo blasts for Old Dominion as they knocked off Southern Mississippi 4-1 to start the set at Pete Taylor Park.
 
ODU (30-12, 12-10 C-USA) got on the board in the top of the second as with one out Petracci took the first pitch he saw over the right field wall to give the Monarchs an early 1-0 lead.
 
The Golden Eagles responded with a run in its half of the third as Morgan started with a strikeout of Brady Faust and a walk to Gabe Montenegro. Dustin Dickerson singled to center to advance Montenegro to second before Morgan struck out Carson Paetow. Christopher Sargent followed with a single allowing Montenegro to score and tie the game.
 
That run was the first one allowed by Morgan since moving into the starting rotation after the opening C-USA series. He’s now allowed one run in 31 innings as a starter.
 
The Monarchs took the lead to stay in the fifth as Carter Trice began with a single and advanced on a one-out sacrifice bunt by Kyle EdwardsThomas Wheeler followed with a single to right field to plate Trice for a 2-1 advantage.
 
ODU dialed up the long ball again in the eighth as Coutney launched a one-out blast to right field to push the lead up to 3-1. Jason Hartline came in for his school record 95th appearance in the bottom of the eighth and after allowing the first two batters to reach via walks, struck out Will McGillis and induced a double play from Danny Lynch to keep ODU up two runs.
 
The guests put up an insurance run in the ninth as Trice was hit by a pitch and stole second before Tommy Bell was plunked by a pitch for the 47th time of his career. Edwards then faked a bunt and smacked a double to right field scoring Trice for the 4-1 lead.
 
Hartline allowed one walk in the ninth but got a groundout to second to end the game and earn his sixth save.
 
Coutney was 3-for-5 with a run driven in, while Trice was 2-for-3 with two scored to lead the Monarchs who out-hit the host Golden Eagles 9-7.
 
The same two teams will tangle at 3 p.m. on Saturday in game two of the series.