The weather delays that plagued Wednesday’s opening of the Conference USA Baseball Tournament proved to be a blessing in disguise for Southern Miss. Behind an extra day of rest due to their game with UAB being postponed, the Golden Eagles opted to throw their ace pitcher, Nick Sandlin, against the Blazers Thursday afternoon.
Sandlin, the 2018 Ferriss Trophy winner, has rarely disappointed in his Southern Miss career, and Thursday was no different. The junior’s complete game shutout and 12 strikeouts keyed a 2-0 win for the Golden Eagles, who advance to play UTSA on Friday at MGM Park.
“He [Sandlin] just shows up and wins and competes,” said Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry. “I thought he just got stronger as he went along.”
Click on the link to see video highlights and the whole post-game interview with USM head coach Scott Berry: https://youtu.be/2x3zFShaVCw
After breezing through the first inning, Sandlin faced a bases-loaded situation with only one out in the second. Sandlin answered with back-to-back strikeouts to end the frame and keep the game scoreless headed to the bottom of the second. There, Southern Miss plated its first run on a sac-fly from Matthew Guidry that scored Matt Wallner.
The Golden Eagles gave Sandlin another run of insurance in the sixth when Hunter Slater reached on an RBI single. After six complete, Southern Miss led UAB 2-0.
“We did have to scratch for a couple of runs,” said Berry. “UAB, they really battled us and gave us fits. Their pitching did an outstanding job pitching out of innings and really minimizing.”
Again, so too did Sandlin, who faced a bit of a jam in the ninth inning with UAB trying to rally. Trailing by two runs with only one out, the Blazers had runners on first and second. Sandlin answered with his 12th strikeout and a flyout to shortstop LeeMarcus Boyd to end the game.
“The storyline today is Nick Sandlin and his ability to take the mound and dominate,” added Berry.
Sandlin improved to 9-0 on the year with the win, while Southern Miss is now 40-15. As previously mentioned, the Golden Eagles will next face UTSA on Friday at 12:30 pm. The winner of that game will advance to the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament.