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Five takeaways from Southern Miss baseball media day

Christian+Ostrander+opens+up+the+2024+baseball+season+at+baseball+media+day.+
Sean Smith
Christian Ostrander opens up the 2024 baseball season at baseball media day.

 

Every year at the end of January, Southern Miss baseball media day gives Southern Miss fans a taste of what the upcoming season will be like.

This season, there is no difference as there are many takeaways to note following Southern Miss head coach Christian Ostrander’s 24 minutes at the mic and interviewing some of the players, old and new, on the team.

Here are five takeaways from Southern Miss media day 2024:

  1. A New Era
Christian Ostrander walks off the field following Southern Miss winning the 2023 Sun Belt Baseball Championship. (Dima Mixon)

For the first time in 14 years, Scott Berry was not taking questions at the mic at Southern Miss baseball media day. Instead, first-year head coach Christian Ostrander took over the program following Berry’s retirement after a legendary career.

When Assistant Athletic Director and Communications Director Jack Duggan announced, “We now welcome first-year head coach Christian Ostrander,” to kick off media day festivities, the media in the room felt the immediate impact that this season starts a new era.

For Ostrander, it is a dream come true to be at Southern Miss, coach a team, and lead a program like this.

“It’s a dream come true,” Ostrander said. “You work your whole career to have an opportunity to lead a program like this. They don’t just hand these out, so I don’t take it for granted.”

As he told media all the way back in June when Ostrander was officially named the school’s 14th baseball coach, Berry knew that he was leaving his garden in the best shoes to reap the harvest.

“I am excited for, and extremely proud Christian will be our next Head Baseball Coach at USM,” Berry said, per release. “Watching Christian learn and develop over the past 6 years; he understands what Southern Miss Baseball all is about! His loyalty, work ethic, and commitment to tradition will endear him to our Southern Miss Faithful.”

Ostrander takes up a program coming off two straight trips to the NCAA Super Regionals and a team that has made the NCAA tournament seven straight seasons. Moreover, it boasts the nation’s longest 40-win season streak (7).

Ostrander knows he cannot replace Berry; no one can. However, he knows he can be an irreplicable coach at Southern Miss, and he has confidence he will be.

“There’s not going to be another coach Scott Berry,” Ostrander said. “There’s only one me too. And that’s not arrogance, that’s not ego or anything. You have got to be genuine; you’ve got to be who you are.”

Christian Ostrander takes questions at Southern Miss baseball media day (Sean Smith)

Southern Miss senior captain Slade Wilks said he had not noticed anything majorly different between Berry’s program and Ostrander’s program other than Ostrander being “fierier” than Berry was.

Nevertheless, Southern Miss baseball is marching forward with a new head coach and many expectations.

  1. No looking ahead for Ostrander’s program

It is no news to Southern Miss baseball fans that the past two seasons have been nothing short of two incredible runs. Both teams are reaching the NCAA Super Regionals, and not only that, but both teams can host an NCAA Super Regional, and the 2022 team is hosting both an NCAA Regional and the Super.

Some fans are making the case that 2024 is the team’s year. In 2022, they were two wins from reaching the College World Series (CWS) in Omaha, Nebraska. Last year, they were one win away from reaching the CWS.

Is 2024 finally the year they return to the CWS for the first time since 2009?

Maybe so, but Ostrander is not worried about the team’s end goals right now. Of course, their goal is always to reach the College World Series and perhaps even win the National Championship.

However, for now, Ostrander is just focusing on these next three weeks of scrimmages, getting them ready and working out specific position battles that must be answered on February 16 when they open the season up against Marist.

“There is a lot of new faces, we have a lot of experience gone, let’s just be honest,” Ostrander said. “I don’t think about the end. I think about the next day, this day and so forth. With our guys, I don’t want to put anything on them. They are going to need to be the 2024 team, and I worry about them making their identities as a team and leaving their legacy.”

He went on to say:

“We want to continue this tradition, but we aren’t going to pin them down on that,” Ostrander said. “Just go play the best nine innings of baseball you can.”

  1. A lineup that looks extensively different.

Southern Miss fans, and Ostrander for that matter, have been so used to seeing solid defensive play by the Southern Miss baseball team year after year. Between Dustin Dickerson and Danny Lynch on the left side of the infield and Christopher Sargent and whoever was at second base on the other side, Southern Miss had some incredible infield talent, not to mention all the all-star catchers that they had between Blake Johnson and Rodrigo Montenegro.

This season, Southern Miss fans will be hit in the face with the roster’s newness due to the entire infield’s complete revamp.

For starters, Ostrander confirmed that Nick Monistere is moving to center field, leaving the second base spot open to the Valparaiso transfer Nolan Tucker.

Shortstop seems locked up by BYU transfer Ozzie Pratt, whom Ostrander confirmed was penciled in at the shortstop slot.

Several positions still need to be decided. Those include third base, catcher, and left field. Those positions will be decided over the next three weeks of fall scrimmaging.

“I think this group has got a chance to be a very solid ball club,” Ostrander said. “I am cautiously optimistic every year about anything that we do, and you learn a lot as you go, so I think this is going to be no different.”

  1. A pitching staff that finally will have depth.
Dima Mixon

Most of the early pains last season for Southern Miss were due to the pitching. That was most evident in the Illinois series and the Mississippi State game, among others. However, this season, Ostrander is excited about the experience of the pitching staff returning.

Ostrander was so confident in the depth of his pitching staff that he even made it clear that Monistere would not have to come and pitch unless they needed him. It is very different from when Berry said last season that Dickerson would have to come in to pitch in some games, which he did once.

With the return of Billy Oldham, Niko Mazza and Kros Sivley among many others, the Southern Miss pitching staff looks and feels much more like the 2022 pitching staff than the 2023 pitching staff.

“I really think our pitching staff has a lot more depth than we had last year,” Ostrander said. “I feel like we have a good group of guys that can be on the front end. You know, get you out of the gate. A good group of guys in the middle that bridge you to your back-end guys and I think we have multiple options there. Reminds me a little bit of the 2022 staff, I’m not saying that’s what they’re going to be. But we have a lot of depth and competition and it made everybody a little bit better. So, I love how these guys are competing.”

  1. Danny Lynch is still making an impact.
Dima Mixon

Even with Lynch not on the team, he has made a ginormous impact on this team as an assistant GA. He has been doing various things around the team, such as umpiring scrimmages, teaching the younger players, etc.. However, all in all, he has been an extraordinary element in getting these young guys prepared for what they are representing.

“I wouldn’t know what to do without him here,” Ostrander said. “Danny is so good for these young kids. Somebody that is so passionate about Southern Miss and this baseball program. He makes sure that they understand this is a big deal.”

Lynch told SM2 back in the fall that the most challenging part for him is trying to let the kids learn and let the older guys teach. However, Lynch’s addition to the staff has been an overwhelming positive for the baseball team.

 

As the 2024 season approaches, everyone in the program is just ready to get back on the field and play the game of baseball.

Everyone will be happy on February 16 when Southern Miss opens against Marist.

“There’s going to be storms but that’s baseball,” Ostrander said. “We’re going to get popped in the mouth. These guys are going to strike out and they’re going to fail but we just have to stay in the middle and do the things we think we have to do to win baseball games. I’m excited to do that.”

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  • S

    Scott Harbison | Jan 26, 2024 at 6:56 pm

    Nice job, thanks for the great story!

    Reply
    • D

      Dima Mixon | Jan 28, 2024 at 11:10 pm

      Thank you Scott for reading!

      Reply