Southern Miss gets first conference sweep of season

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The Southern Miss baseball team has begun to take its full stride in the most recent five-game stretch. The Golden Eagles’ bats have found an explosive consistency, while the pitching staff has taken an extra step that it had lacked for the first half of the season.

Since game three of its series against Florida International, Southern Miss is on a five-game win streak outscoring opponents 53-8.

With the sweep of Middle Tennessee, the team’s batting average has jumped to .298, which showed in this series as Southern Miss averaged 11 hits per game. While finding consistency at the plate is important, Southern Miss’ power has seen more action as well with the Golden Eagles hitting four home runs over the weekend.

While the bats have found their usual groove, the Southern Miss pitching staff also put together a more dominant consistency.

Starting ace pitcher Nick Sandlin left the first inning on April 6 against Western Kentucky and missed a start in the FIU series due to shoulder tightness. This prompted starters Stevie Powers and Walker Powell to step up along with the rest of the bullpen.

“We didn’t draw any attention to [Sandlin’s injury],” Head Coach Scott Berry said. “I think it brought up a sense of urgency. Our guys aren’t dumb; they know what it’s like when [Sandlin] isn’t in there. For those guys [and] Stevie, those past two Fridays to step it up in Nick’s absence has certainly led the charge I feel like from the pitching staff side. Those guys that have followed have done well.”

Powers was moved to the Friday night starting role and threw a complete game shutout and then threw a career-high of 12 strikeouts in eight innings this past Friday against MTSU, which bumped his numbers to 64 strikeouts on the season. Powell has remained steady but has slowly logged more innings, which has kept the need to call for the bullpen at a crucial minimum in recent weeks.

Powers and Powell made the first two starts of the series this weekend, but Sandlin made a triumphant return in game three against MTSU. Sandlin looked as if he had not missed a beat, throwing 12-strikeouts in five innings. In his 73 pitches thrown, Sandlin struck out the side three times, which earned him conference pitcher of the week.

“It was awesome to see Stevie do what he did and then do it again,” Sandlin said. “Everybody has been stepping up, that’s what a good staff does. Everyone can contribute in different ways. It’s good to see everyone do that.”

Southern Miss (28-11, C-USA 13-4) is now in first place after Florida Atlantic (30-4, C-USA 144) tied Rice. The tie erases the half game deficit Southern Miss faced after canceling a conference game against the University of Texas San Antonio. After the midweek game against South Alabama, Southern Miss will travel to Norfolk, Virginia to play Old Dominion in a three-game weekend series.