The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Southern Miss baseball pitching preview and projected staring rotation

Dima Mixon

A new era of Southern Miss baseball is underway at Pete Taylor Park, and with that is an entirely new look for Southern Miss’ baseball team in many regards. Where that change is not necessarily the truth is the pitching staff.

The 2024 pitching staff brings back more elements of the 2022 and 2023 Super Regional teams than the defensive side of the ball does.

“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.”

Now, Southern Miss lost a generational talent in Tanner Hall. Hall is a two-time first-team All-American who pitched 222 innings over the past two seasons and was almost unhittable in many of those games.

Hall helped Southern Miss more likely than not get the Friday win and shortened the weekend dramatically for the rest of the pitching staff. Toward the end of the 2023 season, Hall had incredible outings in the Sun Belt tournament and the Auburn Regional. While falling short in the Hattiesburg Super Regional, his legacy lives on.

Ostrander knows it is impossible to replace a guy like Hall, but he has two guys who have experience pitching in big games and have proven that they can go deep in games like Hall did.

Billy Oldham Jr (8–3, 4.21) and Niko Mazza (5–2, 4.34) are both back on the roster for the Golden Eagles, which puts them in a place that is even better than last season, where they had lost two-weekend starters coming into the season.

Oldham does have somewhat of a limited amount of velocity in his arsenal, but his low 90s heater serves up his nasty changeup and slider. Both pitches helped him contain Tennessee in game one of the 2023 Hattiesburg Super Regional.

Oldham said he had a great fall and could not wait to return to the field for the Golden Eagles.

Mazza has that velocity that you would typically see on a Friday night. He sat up at 92-94 last year, and watched him throw the ball in recent scrimmages that have gone up, topping at 97. He also has a good slider and changeup in his back pocket, which he can use to fall back after the heaters.

Another significant element of the pitching staff is the return of Chandler Best. Best missed the 2023 season due to undergoing Tommy John surgery last fall. Best has a solid fastball and changeup and provides a starting lefty that might insert him into the weekend rotation.

Importantly for him, he has experience. He is pitching in multiple big games in his career, including against Ole Miss in Pearl in the 2022 season and against LSU in the Hattiesburg Regional.

Best is a candidate for the Sunday job, and two other candidates who are prominent returnees for the bullpen are Kros Sivley and Will Armistead.

Armistead posted a 2.09 ERA in 43 innings as a transfer last year, and he made a couple of starts but was generally called on out of the bullpen. He was essential in the Sun Belt Championship and the Auburn Regional last season. Not to mention some of the liens he dropped in the press conferences following the games.

Sivley’s season started super hot last year; he was virtually unhittable before a slight slump toward the end of the season. He is a lefty who delivers a low 90s fastball but a wicked changeup that sees much action.

He scored 59-10 in K-BB in his 58 innings pitched last season.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do what we did last season without him [Sivley],” Ostrander said at baseball media day. “He had a great summer pitching in the Cape Cod league. He came back and he was dogged out, I shut him down this fall….so right now he looks great, he’s one of the guys we are extending.”

They also have some guys who have looked good in the fall scrimmages and in the few spring scrimmages. Those guys include Jake Cook, Chase Adams, Jackson Parker, and JB Middleton.

The Golden Eagles are also aided by JW Armistead, Will’s younger brother, and sophomore Colby Allen.

Nick Monistere could see some action, but Ostrander said they have much talent and would only do it if they “absolutely needed too.”

They are also awaiting Matthew Adams’ status. Another starter from a year ago underwent surgery in the fall on his shoulder, and Ostrander said he is “working to get back.”

Projected Starting Weekend Rotation

Friday: Niko Mazza

I recognize this is bold, but I think Mazza and Oldham are probably interchangeable on Friday and Saturday. But Mazza’s velocity could give him the upper hand to start on Friday’s.

Saturday: Billy Oldham Jr.

As I said, Mazza and Oldham are interchangeable from Friday and Saturday, so I think Mazza will start as the Friday guy, and Oldham will be the Saturday guy.

Sunday: Chandler Best

Ostrander has liked the look and the stepping up of Chandler Best, and I think his lefty presence will get him the nod on Sunday. It allows them to give the opposing team something else to look at and prepare for and gives a chance for Sivley to pitch on Friday and start on the midweek action.

The pitching staff certainly has more depth than last season but less experience. Still, Ostrander is optimistic and ready to see what they offer when the season starts against Marist on February 16.

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