Bowden out to regain old form after Tuesday outing

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

HATTIESBURG &045; Finally, Barry Bowden felt good on the mound.

On Tuesday the former Vidalia ace right-hander did something he really hasn’t done in almost two years &045; he felt fine and in control on the mound in a game situation. He threw seven shutout innings for Southern Miss in a win over Southeastern Louisiana in his second start this season, and he’s hoping it’s the beginning of something new after coming off shoulder surgery last season.

Maybe, Bowden hopes, he can come back from surgery and be even better than he was in high school.

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&uot;I felt good,&uot; Bowden said. &uot;I was throwing all three of my pitches for strikes. I went deep in the game, and I felt good about it. I threw 99 pitches, and that’s the most pitches I’ve thrown in two years probably. It was a big confidence booster.&uot;

The outing was his second after getting his first last week against South Alabama. Things didn’t go as well in that outing, but Tuesday he showed signs of his days in high school with pinpoint control and a sharp breaking ball.

Bowden didn’t walk a batter in seven innings, struck out nine and gave up only two hits in the 5-2 win. He retired the first 10 batters he faced before giving up a hit, and he then sent down the next nine before yielding another hit.

Against South Alabama, Bowden threw just four innings, allowed two runs, walked three and scattered four hits.

&uot;That first game I came out and didn’t do bad, but I didn’t go deep in the game,&uot; Bowden said. &uot;(Tuesday) I threw well and was able to go seven innings. It kept the pressure off our bullpen for this weekend, but it helped my confidence out a lot. I finally felt comfortable on the mound and had my control.&uot;

The first outing was the first start of his career after he threw just 5 2/3 innings last spring in two relief appearances before going down with the shoulder injury. Neither outing was a solid one for the two-time All-Metro Player of the Year, but he was having to throw through pain in a shoulder he aggravated during his senior year at Vidalia.

&uot;He threw OK,&uot; USM head coach Corky Palmer said of his first star at. &uot;His fine-tuning wasn’t there. He walked five guys in four innings, and his forte is his control. He didn’t pitch in the fall. He threw but didn’t throw intrasquad. His velocity chart was good. He just hadn’t been out there.&uot;

Bowden had surgery to repair a frayed labrum in his throwing shoulder, and doctors went in and cleaned up the labrum and the entire shoulder. He believed he first aggravated it in the Vikings’ Class 2A quarterfinal game against Riverside in 2003, and he didn’t pitch in the semifinal in Baton Rouge against St. Frederick.

Then came his freshman year when he tried to give it a go out of the bullpen, but he opted to take the medical red-shirt and come back this spring.

&uot;It took me a while,&uot; Bowden said. &uot;You’ve got to throw through a little bit of pain. I’ve been pain-free for a few months now. Coming off that, it’s going to make me try harder and to stay healthy. I feel that I’ll get better. I feel like I’ll get better than I was before.&uot;

The biggest thing may be the curveball, a pitch he threw well in high school but may be more important now that he’s not blowing his fastball by anyone. In his first outing Bowden struggled more with the curveball, but Tuesday he had more success with it and kept Southeastern’s batters off balance a bit.

&uot;We’re trying not to work him back too quick,&uot; Palmer said. &uot;His curveball was breaking. He threw 85 or 86. He’s not going to throw 92 or 93, and you don’t have to to win. His big deal is to get his curveball back. He’ll get his fine-tuning back, and he’ll be fine.&uot;

The more Bowden can come up with solid outings in the middle of the week, the more he will take the mound. He’s stepping into a USM rotation that lost two key starters (Anthony DeWitt, Cliff Russum) and its closer (Austin Tubb) from a season ago.

Patrick Ezell and Mike Cashion return after playing key roles in the Eagles’ 45-19 season in 2004 that ended at the NCAA Regional at LSU.

Junior college transfer Brad Owen will compete with Bowden for starts in the middle of the week.

&uot;We gave him a start, and we’ll give him another one to see what happens,&uot; Palmer said. &uot;The next two or three middle of the week games will determine that. It’s competition, and right now he’s got this start. We’ll see how it goes. (Tuesday) was a big start for him, no doubt.&uot;

The pitching staff is not as experienced, but Palmer brought in some junior college transfers to solidify the unit. But as far as middle of the week starts, Bowden won’t complain.

The Eagles travel to Lamar this weekend but

face Ole Miss Tuesday in Jackson.

&uot;I hope I get to start against Ole Miss,&uot; Bowden said. &uot;That would be nice, but you never know. We’ve got a big staff. We’ve got a lot of junior college guys in who throw really well. You never know.&uot;