The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Ostrander’s inaugural season ends with a 12-3 loss to No. 1 Tennessee in the Knoxville Regional Final.

Dima Mixon

KNOXVILLE, Tenn – For the second year in a row, Tennessee ends Southern Miss season after slugging their way to a 12-3 victory in the Knoxville Regional Final. 

Southern Miss had no answers for the best lineup in college baseball. The Volunteers knocked four home runs, two being multi-run jacks. 

“Just proud of our guys,” Southern Miss head coach Christian Ostrander said. “We got a chance to keep playing. We knew it was going to be tough, but our guys fought and just ran out of gas a little bit at the end, but nothing to be ashamed of for sure.” 

For Ostrander, the loss will end what will be viewed as a widely successful season in the coach’s inaugural year. Ostrander became the first head coach in Southern Miss history to reach 43 wins in his inaugural year.

For a team that lost 70% of its 2024 Super Regional Roster, the Golden Eagles won their second straight Sun Belt championship and made their fifth straight Regional Final game and sixth in the last seven years. 

“I’ve been surrounded by a great group of young men,” Ostrander said. “Every coach, trainer, SID, AD, chaplain, it’s special. There is a culture at Southern Miss that we are very proud of to continue that and further that. I thought these guys did a great job of continuing that this year.”  

The injuries in the bullpen eventually caught up to Southern Miss. Even with the impressive performances earlier in this tournament by Niko Mazza and Colby Allen, Southern Miss could not string together any more magic with the rest of their bullpen. At no fault; nobody else in the country has really had an answer for this lineup either. 

“We couldn’t keep them in the park..pretty plain and simple,” Ostrander said. “We had too many freebies tonight. That’s something we don’t like, and you just can’t do it against that lineup, because they are going to get their hits. But the guys competed and I know they gave their best effort.” 

Tennessee took the lead in the top of the second inning when Hunter Ensley singled up the middle to put the Volunteers on top. The Golden Eagles responded in the bottom of the fourth inning when Dalton McIntyre batted into a fielder’s choice, but Blake Burke threw it off a Golden Eagle runner, allowing Lawson Odom to score to tie the game 1-1. 

Tennessee responded with a no-doubter home run in the fifth by Cal Stark to put the Volunteers back on top 2-1. 

In the bottom of the fifth, Odom reached on an error, Gabe Broadus walked and Dalton McIntyre picked up an infield single with one out. Ozzie Pratt collected a two-RBI double to give Southern Miss their first lead of the night at 3-2. 

That is when Tennessee’s bats finally awoke. They knocked in four runs in the top of the sixth and three more in the top of the seventh to blow the game open and lead 9-3. They added three more at the top of the ninth to extend the lead to 12-3. 

Southern Miss had no answers for the lineup as they went scoreless from Pratt’s double all the way until the end of the game. 

In all, Southern Miss’s pitching staff gave up five home runs to the No. 1 lineup in the country. With the homers tonight, Tennessee has a new program-record 159 homers. 

“It’s just very long, it’s a long lineup,” Ostrander said. “You can’t catch your breath, you have to execute. If you give them a little bit of something, they can hurt you because they can do so many things.” 

Since the team is so young, the Golden Eagles have much returning next season but will have to say goodbye to longtime Golden Eagle favorite Slade Wilks. 

Wilks stamped his name in Southern Miss history tonight by extending his hitting streak to 35 games on his final at-bat of his career, placing him second all alone in Southern Miss history for longest hit streaks during a single season. 

“I saw the score and I figured it was probably the last time in this uniform and I just really tried to soak it all in and I got a pitch that I could hit,” Wilks said on his final at-bat as a Golden Eagles. 

Wilks, a captain, dreamed of being captain of a Southern Miss team for his whole career and finally got to live that out this season. 

“I looked up to captains when I was a freshman and I wanted to lead like they did, because they did it the right way,” Wilks said. “And I hope that’s something people say about me, that I did it the right way.”

Wilks will finish his Golden Eagle career with 46 home runs and 172 RBIs. However, as former head coach Scott Berry used to say, it is not about the stats but the person’s character. Ostrander clarified that that is what Wilks’s legacy at Southern Miss will be. 

“He is as good as anybody we have had, in my opinion,” Ostrander said. “From the moment he stepped on campus to now, he has just done things right. He’s a fabulous human being. He will be successful in life.”

Where does Southern Miss go from here? 

First, Golden Eagle fans will be happy to know that they have the potential to return the entire lineup outside of Wilks. Returning an entire lineup that made a Regional Final is certainly a positive, especially when there is room to add a couple of pieces here and there. 

“I feel great about [who’s coming back], I feel like we got a great nucleus coming back,” Ostrander said. “We have a lot of arms and a lot of players coming back with a lot of experience. Starting this season that wasn’t that case.” 

From a pitching aspect, Southern Miss will return multiple players who contributed this season from the bullpen, such as Kros Sivley, McCarty English, Colby Allen, JB Middleton, Ben Riley Flowers, Josh Och, Chandler Best, and Chase Adams. 

Billy Oldham has a chance of being back. He said he is waiting to see what happens in the 2024 MLB draft. Niko Mazza is probably getting drafted, especially after his performance against Northern Kentucky on Saturday. 

Will Amristead could also be back, but his injury might have sidelined him for another season, meaning he might not retake the mound until the 2026 baseball season. 

For what is returning, it is hard to say that Ostrander’s first year was anything but a wild success and that Southern Miss baseball is right where it wants to be. 

“You can tell that ‘he ran to the fire’ and that he was ready,” Wilks said. “It’s something that he has been working his whole life for and he expresses that to us. USM baseball is in good hands.” 

Southern Miss finishes the season with a 43-20 record.

“We look forward to what is next and we will start preparing for that when we get back to Hattiesburg,” Ostrander said.

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