The verdict is in on the Southern Miss pitching staff for many fans after the final game of opening weekend against Mississippi State, the midweek game against South Alabama and the final game against UT Martin. From what it seems the Golden Eagles have much potential especially with starter Nick Sandlin but the bullpen has caused much concern in the past week.
Scott Berry’s starters raised eyebrows for many Southern Miss fans with Nick Sandlin, Stevie Powers and J.C. Keys.
“I know that shocked everybody [and] all of a sudden we announce [Nick] as that,” Head Coach Scott Berry said. “We’ve been grooming him for that, knowing that Matt [Wallner] was healthy and that really gave us an option.”
The biggest worry for most Southern Miss fans was not having an established starter, but that was put to rest on the opening day of the season as Nick Sandlin pitched to near perfection.
Sandlin had not started a game since high school but the former closer has made himself the team’s ace. In 14 innings pitched, Sandlin has struck out 23 batters and holds a 0.00 ERA.
Saturday starter, Stevie Powers showed improvement compared to his starts last season but Powers’ role of being a weekend starter could change as the season progresses.
Powers found himself in several jams in the past couple games and is the only pitcher to give up three home runs, but what has been interesting to see is how calm he remained in those situations. It was obvious Powers could draw on his prior experience as a reliever and pitched himself out of trouble.
The first two days of the weekend rotation have performed well, but the Sunday game and midweek is where fans became concerned.
J.C. Keys and Alex Nelms have so far been the biggest let downs in the pitching staff thus far. Keys and Nelms combined have given up 16 runs on 15 hits. Keys not being able to perform in the starting role has hurt the bullpen, while Nelms in his two appearances has also contributed to weariness toward the bullpen.
Despite the negativity, many positives have materialized out of the bullpen and once Colt Smith becomes healthy and Walker Powell can show he is healthy, the pitching staff should have no worries.
Keller Bradford has emerged as a great set up man with his junk ball style of pitching. Freshman left-handed reliever Jacob Weirich has shown that he is above the normal level of a college freshman. Weirich has thrown eight strikeouts and posts a 2.70 ERA in the 6.2 innings he has pitched.
Another surprising pitcher is Cody Carroll who had an 11.93 ERA last year. This year Carroll has thrown six strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched and has given up just one hit, which shows a drastic improvement on his pitching.
Matt Wallner looks to be the ace closer, especially after throwing 94 mph fastballs in the opening weekend. The biggest issue to be determined is if Wallner can handle a bigger workload after his injury last season.
After failing to sweep UT Martin,coach berry explained his displeasure on the issues that have begun to unfold in the Golden Eagle bullpen.
“I think guys that we are counting on are not getting it done for us right now in the early season,” Berry said. “I think we have confidence in them. They need to start showing confidence in themselves and go from there.”