The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Southern Miss Defeats Appalachian State 7-5 with Strong Relief Pitching and Five-Run Fifth, Advances to Sun Belt Championship

Dima Mixon

MONTGOMERY, AL – It took 11 hours and 49 minutes for Southern Miss to defeat Appalachian State 7-5 in dramatic fashion in the Sun Belt Semifinals. With the win, the Golden Eagles reach the Sun Belt Championship game for the second straight season, having won the tournament a season ago. 

“Well you know it took 12 hours but what a ballgame,” Ostrander said. “If you would have told me it would have ended in a 7-5 game a couple of hours ago I would have said you were crazy.”

What did the players do during the weather delay?

The game was delayed two times for significant periods to prolong a game scheduled to finish before 12:30 with a 9:05 first pitch time. By 12:30, the game was just then in the top of the third inning and currently in a two-hour and 48-minute delay. Play would resume around 1:00 p.m. and get delayed about an hour later, for five hours and 36 minutes this time. Play would resume at 7:05 p.m. before the game mercifully ended at 8:54 p.m., after 11 hours and 49 minutes. 

“Most of us were just in the batting cages, just relaxing and resting and waiting to here when we could go back out there,” freshman Golden Eagle pitcher Josh Och said on what the team did during the first delay. 

After the second delay, the Sun Belt sent both of the team’s homes to their hotels, knowing the extent of the delay. While the players went to hang out and chill, Ostrander had other plans. 

“I dozed off, I ain’t going to lie to you,” Ostrander said. “I went up to my room and visited with my wife, drank a few bottles of water or whatever, and dozed off. Then, I was on the phone with our athletic director, Jeremey McClain to figure out what the weather was doing,” 

That was not the same as what Appalachian State head coach Kermit Smith did during the time off. Smith pointed out that the Mountaineers beat Southern Miss in the first semifinal game last season before ultimately losing in the deciding game later in the afternoon. He said the team rested “too much” last season and did not want to repeat that mistake. 

“We were just trying to keep everybody’s spirits up,” Smith said. “You can have that sense of getting tired, so for me it was just about how you manage the day when your interacting with your team.” 

Southern Miss’s offense came alive just before the storm did

The Mountaineers fought to keep their season alive and made that clear early. They jumped all over Southern Miss starter Kros Sivley in the top of the first inning. Austin St. Laurent and Drew Holderbach both started the day with back-to-back hits. 

Banks Tolley scored a runner with a fielder’s choice RBI, followed by CJ Boyd doubling to make the lead 2-0 in favor of Appalachian State in the first inning. 

Southern Miss tied the game in the top of the second when Nick Monistere scored on a wild pitch, and Gabe Broadus came up with an RBI fielder’s choice to make the score 2-2. 

The Mountaineers answered and took the lead right back when Tolley knocked his 27th home run of the season, this one for three runs. Tolley led the Sun Belt in home runs this season and earned the single-season home run record at Appalachian State this year. 

The home run gave the Mountaineers a 5-2 advantage in the second inning. 

That is the moment when the first lighting delay happened, and after about two hours, Southern Miss was right back in the box, squaring up to bat. 

They would answer the call in a big way at the top of the fifth inning when Slade Wilks knocked a double to the left center, today extending his hitting streak to 31 games in a row. The double drive in two runs for Southern Miss. Next, Davis Gillespie came up with a fielder’s choice RBI to tie the game at five. 

Then Monistere drove a 427-foot home run off the scoreboard to score two more runs and give Southern Miss the lead for good at 7-5. 

“I knew Slade was on third, I spread out a little bit and told myself I’m going to put it in play,” Monistere. “And I happened to get a pitch middle middle and put a good swing on it,” 

“I knew it was gone, and it felt really good.” 

The bullpen continues to dominate

However, perhaps the game’s biggest story, as is the case in all of the games so far this tournament, is the job the bullpen did after starter Sivley went out after just two innings pitched. 

Ben Riley Flowers came in to pitch and threw two and one-third innings, giving up two hits and collecting four strikeouts. After the five-hour rain delay, the Golden Eagles turned to the freshman Och, and he delivered three and a third scoreless innings with a strikeout and just two hits. The outing was his longest of the season for the black and gold. 

“When Coach Bradford came up to me and told me I got the ball, right at the second I was like ‘let’s do this'”, Och said. “I just wanted to give my team the chance to win. I just locked in on the mitt and do whatever I can to pump strikes and get outs, whatever I can for this team.” 

Och said he learned he would get the ball after the delay when he headed to the ballpark. When asked if he preferred that rather than several hours earlier, Och responded: 

“Oh yeah, cause then I didn’t have to think about it too long,” Och said. 

After Och’s impressive performance, Ostrander went to closer Colby Allen. Allen got into a small amount of trouble in the ninth inning, but with the bases loaded, he delivered the final strikeout to send Southern Miss to their second straight Sun Belt championship game. 

The Southern Miss bullpen has not given up a single earned run this tournament. 

Southern Miss baseball: A tradition like no other

Southern Miss baseball reached 40 wins with the win, extending the program streak to eight straight seasons where the team has accomplished that feat. 

“Very proud of that,” Ostrander said. “To be able to carry that on means the world to us, to all of us at this program. It just shows a real high level of consistency that this program has been built upon for many years. From Pete Taylor to Hill Denson, Coach Palmer, Coach Berry and now us getting to continue that. For me, the culture is established here and we are just trying to continue it.” 

With 70% of the roster gone from last season, reaching 40 wins is an incredible feat for the program and Ostrander. 

“Whenever you come to Southern Miss there’s a culture,” Monistere said. “There’s a brotherhood. We compete together. We lose together. We win together. We take a lot of pride in that,” 

Southern Miss will play for the conference championship tomorrow at a time TBD.

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