Runs were hard to come by for Southern Miss on the final day of the Black and Gold Invitational as the Golden Eagles dropped their final game to North Dakota 4-2 in extra innings.
Despite the loss, the game's biggest highlight was Southern Miss true freshman Karson Pierce's collegiate debut.
The dual-threat player pitched a complete game and led the Golden Eagles' offense. Pierce, the younger sister to junior Makenna Pierce, recorded 16 strikeouts in her debut and finished 2-for-3.
"Going into "t I was excited," Pierce said. "I think that we played hard and that it was a really good game."
Pierce cruised through the first two innings as he struck out the side in the second inning and recorded two more strikeouts in the first inning.
However, she ran into trouble in the third after loading the bases with one out. Pierce walked in a run to give North Dakota a 1-0 lead but minimized the damage as she struck out a batter and induced a ground out.
Pierce recorded eight more strikeouts through the next four innings and notably struck out the side again in the seventh inning.
"We stayed outside and down in the zone," Pierce said. "That really "worked for most of the game, so we stuck with that."
The Golden Eagle offense finally found a spark in the bottom of the seventh with Destini Brown. Brown led the inning off with a triple and then scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. However, Southern Miss failed to capitalize with runners in scoring position.
Pierce gave up a leadoff RBI double, which resulted from tournament rules placing a runner at second base in extra innings, and pushed North Dakota ahead 2-1.
Southern Miss answered again with Terrica Williams hitting an RBI single with two outs.
In the top ninth, after having thrown over 140 pitches, Pierce loaded the bases and gave up a two-run RBI single to extended the Fighting Hawks' lead 4-2 despite having one out, Pierce closed the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
"I could fee" (the pitch count) a little bit towards the end," Pierce said. "I just had to push through it.
"I threw it a little bit too much over the plate, and they were catching up on the outside a little bit. They had some crucial hits with runners on."
In total," Pierce allowed four runs off seven hits while walking five batters and threw 163 pitches. Notably, half of Pierces' numbers came in extra innings as she allowed three runs off hits between the eighth and ninth innings.
However, the Golden Eagle lineup failed to answer back despite having bases loaded with one out.
"(I was most "proud of) pushing through the whole game," Pierce said. "It's been a while since I've had to pitch that much. I'm very proud of myself and my team to play nine innings like that starting the season."
Southern Miss is scheduled to travel and play Florida State on Tuesday at 4 p.m.