The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Mazza’s Complete Game Shutout Leads Southern Miss to 6-0 Victory Over Northern Kentucky

Dima Mixon
June 1, 2024 – Niko Mazza (23) delivers a pitch in his complete game shutout of Northern Kentucky


KNOXVILLE, Tenn – Christian Ostrander didn’t hesitate to send Niko Mazza back to the mound in the ninth inning, telling him to “go finish this.” Mazza delivered, throwing 120 pitches in a complete game shutout to lead Southern Miss to a 6-0 victory over Northern Kentucky, keeping their season alive.

“Last time I threw 120 pitches I got disqualified from the game in high school because I went over the pitch count limit,” Mazza said.  

The complete-game shutout is the first of his career and the first Southern Miss player to have a nine-inning complete-game shutout since Hunter Riggins did against Louisiana on March 5, 2022. 

“Niko was outstanding today and he put everyone on his back,” Southern Miss head coach Christian Ostrander said. 

Mazza delivered a career-high nine innings, allowing just two hits and scattering three strikeouts. 

“I threw a lot of sliders and a lot of fastballs,” Mazza said. “I tried to get my fastball into a lot of hitters. I think that’s why I got a lot of groundballs. At first, my slider wasn’t as good, but found it later in the second game then it was good for the rest of the game.” 

Coming from the loser’s bracket is never easy, but when a starting pitcher can eat up innings like Mazza did today, the road is much more friendly to the arms in the pen. 

“We got three games left I believe if we want to win this thing,” Southern Miss second baseman Nick Monistere said. “Only using two pitchers yesterday; Kros was big yesterday. And then only using him today is huge going forward.” 

Mazza can locate all four of his pitches, which makes him difficult to hit, and he has given nobody more trouble than the Southern Miss batters themselves in practice. 

“Just everything about it him,” Davis Gillespie said on why it is so hard to hit Mazza. “His cutter eats me up every time, he’s got good stuff.”

Monistere echoed Gillespie’s sentiment when asked the same question.

“He commands all four pitches at all four times when he is on,” Monistere said. “It’s really hard to hit that,” 

“He pitched his tail off, and he was electric.” 

Northern Kentucky came into the day batting as one of the four best seeds in the country, but they had no answer for Mazza. 

“He has a three-pitch mix. 93-95, he hits his spots, you just have to tip your cap to him,” Northern Kentucky right fielder Treyvin Moss, who batted .387 coming into the game, said of Mazza. “He dealt, straight up. Obviously we wish it would have gone our way. But man, tip the cap, he was shoving all day.”

For the second day in a row, it took Southern Miss a while to get going against Northern Kentucky’s lefty starter, Ben Gerl. Gerl pitched three straight scoreless frames, including initiating two double plays in back-to-back innings. 

However, the Eagle’s bats finally awoke in the fourth inning. After Dalton McIntyre drew a walk, Davis Gillespie launched his eighth home run of the season to put Southern Miss up 2-0. The ball traveled 406 feet and registered at 104 miles per hour off the bat. 

“It was a 3-1 count, so I thought if I get a good fastball here I’m going to try to do damage with it,” Gillespie said.

Niko Mazza got into his only jam of the day in the bottom of the fifth inning when he allowed a leadoff walk and single, putting two Norse baserunners on with no outs. A sac-bunt and two weak flyballs got Mazza out of the jam. 

From then on, he went to sit down 15-straight Norse batters, not allowing a single one to reach base. 

He had help from his defense with several memorable plays, but none more crazy than when Nick Monistere caught an over-the-shoulder ball when Slade Wilks slipped into right field. 

“I knew the win was pushing in, so I didn’t know if it was going to be on me or not,” Monistere said. “I looked at Slade to see if he was coming in and he was on the ground….so I just hauled tail to get to the ball and I made the play for Niko,”

Monistere extended Southern Miss’s lead with an RBI double in the top of the sixth to give the Golden Eagles a 3-0 lead. Braden Luke gave USM much-needed breathing room with a 2RBI single to put Southern Miss up 5-0. Luke has been in the lineup two days in a row and has given Southern Miss some nice moments at the plate.

READ MORE: Here are the 12 players that will make or break Southern Miss’s trip to Knoxville and a prediction.

“Braden can hit. He hasn’t gotten a ton of at-bats and opportunities this year but he knows where the barrel is,” Ostrander said. “He came up with a really big two-RBI single with two outs. Very proud of him.” 

Wilks added another on a sac fly in the seventh to make the score 6-0 in favor of Southern Miss. 

Southern Miss will play the loser of Indiana and Tennessee in another elimination game tomorrow at 12 PM ET. 

“From here on out we are backed into a corner. If we lose our season is over and none of us want that anytime soon,” Monistere said. “So we are just fighting and clawing on every single pitch and every single inning to get a win and keep going,”

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