The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Southern Miss wins the 2024 Guardian Credit Union Sun Belt Championship in a thriller

Dima Mixon

MONTGOMERY, Ala – Southern Miss drove home five runs in the top of the ninth inning to rally past Georgia Southern 14-11, winning the team’s second straight Sun Belt Championship. The win is the seventh tournament championship for the program and the second time it has been a repeat championship, the last time being in the 2018-2019 seasons.

“That is up there with one of the greatest games I have ever been a part of,” First baseman Matthew Russo said after the game. 

The win marked the first conference championship for first-year head coach Chrisitan Ostrander. Ostrander led a team that had lost 70% of the championship roster from last season all the way to the tournament, where they lifted the trophy yet again. The team did not lose in the tournament and seemed to respond to adversity every single time it happened. 

Whether it was scoring five runs late against Coastal in the first game, plating three runs in the eighth to beat Troy, enduring a seven-hour lightning delay to squeeze past Appalachain State, and then going down multiple runs three separate times in the game today and still coming through to win. 

“Extremely proud of guys, just the resiliency they have shown over and over again,” Ostrander said. “I guess they don’t look at the scoreboard, they just play the game. It was going to take an army today, on the mound and special things happening in big moments and so many of them delivered.” 

Ostrander’s job is nothing short of remarkable, and it is a dream come true for the players who play for him. 

“40 wins for Coach Oz’s first year is amazing,” shortstop Ozzie Pratt said. “He’s a great guy, he’s a pitching guru and he knows how to run things. I am just so excited for Southern Miss’s future with him. I think he’s going to hold down the fort and bring great things to it.” 

Ostrander’s strength is coaching the pitching, and this weekend, the bullpen really turned it around and answered the challenge he had given them several weeks ago after too many lackluster performances. 

Until today, the Southern Miss bullpen had not given up a single earned run. While that did not hold today, the pitching staff held its own against a hot-hitting Georgia Southern team and gave the offense a chance, ultimately proving to be the deciding factor. 

“They certainly answered it [the challenge],” Ostrander said. “They all said ‘Give me the ball, and I’ll do my job and my part’, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but just going out there and competing. I think that’s what’s changed. We’ve gotten to be where we are being more consistent with what we are getting. As a pitching coach, I just want consistency. I want to know what I’m going to get and these guys have been doing that.” 

After Davis Gillespie put Southern Miss ahead in the top of the first inning with a three-run home run, Cole Boswell got the start on the mound for Southern Miss and Georgia Southern ran him off early. 

The Eagles knocked three home runs off of Boswell from Jarrett Brown, Sean White and Sean Smith, putting the Eagles up 4-3. 

Chandler Best came in out of the bullpen and gave the Golden Eagles the help they needed with a couple of scoreless frames before Sam Blancato rocketed the Eagle’s fourth home run of the day for two more runs, making the score 6-3. 

Southern Miss got one back in the fourth by way of an RBI-fielder’s choice by Slade Wilks. Then, the Golden Eagles tied the game up in the top of the fifth with back-to-back RBI singles by Dalton McIntyre and Pratt. 

“When we aren’t hitting good Coach Creel will get us in the dugout and tell us to relax,” Pratt said. “Don’t think of the moment too big and just get singles. Just settle down and we did.”

The Eagles got those runs right back with a sac-bunt and a wild pitch to make the score 8-6 in favor of Georgia Southern. 

Ostrander made a bold decision to bring Braden Luke in the top of the seventh, which paid off when Luke led off the seventh with a double. Odom singled after him to score the run and make the game 8-7 in favor of Georgia Southern. 

Wilks got a 2RBI-single later in the inning to give Southern miss the lead 9-8. The hit extended his hitting streak to 32 games, and now he has reached safely on base. 

Ostrander brought in Billy Oldham from the bullpen, and Oldham was hit around, allowing two home runs. One was a solo shot from Brown, and the other a two-run shot from TJ McKenzie. This put Georgia Southern back out in front 11-9. 

“When we walked into the dugout the first thing we said, all of us, it was very simultaneous, we’re going to refuse to lose,” Russo said. “A couple of base hits and then things fell into place.” 

Southern Miss went into the top of the ninth down two, only having three outs left. Tucker Stockman and Gabe Broauds both led off with back-to-back singles. McIntyre earned an RBI single to bring the score within one, and then Pratt reached on an error, scoring the tying run and the go-ahead run. 


“I just wanted to put the ball in play,” Pratt said. “I was just trying to tie the game up and it got through there and scored two.” 

Russo delivered another huge hit when he doubled down the right field line, scoring two more Golden Eagles, extending the lead to 14-11. 

Ostrander gave the ball to closer Colby Allen to come in and close down the hot-hitting Georgia Southern offense. He succeeded by shutting them down in both the eighth and the ninth, only allowing a single hit. 

He sat the Eagles down in the ninth through a lineout and two groundouts. 

“After we put up the five spot I went up to Colby and I told him just to be himself,” McIntyre said. “It’s so good to have him out there, he’s always just so focused. He’s lights out, he’s a great player and you always feel confident when he’s on the mound.”

Allen has been lights out and a guy they have relied heavily on and will continue to rely heavily on heading into the NCAA  tournament. 

“This is why I stayed here last summer, to get stronger and stronger and kind of tweak some things with my mechanics on the fastball, and sure enough… it’s awesome,” Allen said. “This is what you come to Southern Miss for.. to win a championship.” 

Allen was named the 2024 tournament MVP, much to Ostrander’s liking. 

“He’s got the ‘it’ factor and has an edge about it,” Ostrander said. “He’s a fierce competitor and he believes in himself. He is a strike thrower. His stuff has gotten better. I think he is maturing, I think his fastball has grown and gotten more action and a little more velocity. The slider got more velocity and more action as well. When you add those things, you have a guy who can do what we’ve seen. I think the biggest aspect of that is his mentality and his confidence.” 

Four Southern Miss players have been named to the all-tournament team:

Dalton McIntyre 

Nick Monistere

Slade Wilks

Billy Oldham

Southern Miss will await their NCAA tournament destination until it is announced tomorrow at 11 AM.

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