HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - For seven years as the head baseball coach of Jones County Junior College, Christian Ostrander watched the Southern Miss program from a distance.
Third-year JCJC head coach Chris Kirtland spent six seasons on Ostrander's Bobcat staff and knows what coach "Oz" can bring in his first season as the Golden Eagles pitching coach.
"As a former Golden Eagle, I always pictured a time when he was leading the pitching staff there," Kirtland said. "I would say that they definitely hit the nail on the head to bring him in. We're going to be able to see the 'Ostrander effect' this year down at Pete Taylor Park."
Ostrander pictured himself in a USM uniform as well. After spending the past two seasons with Conference USA foe Louisiana Tech, coach "Oz" can finally put on that black and gold.
"I could tell you a long story about something I wrote down many years ago that had this as one of my quote-unquote dream jobs," Ostrander said. "Me and my wife talked about it not long afterwards. God works in amazing ways."
Ostrander's track record speaks for itself. He compiled a 255-109 record as the head coach of Jones County. Under Ostrander in 2016, Louisiana Tech notched a school-record 496 strikeouts.
However, it's Ostrander's ability to connect with his players that sets him apart.
"He's a great pitching coach, he's a great man of character," said USM head coach Scott Berry. "I think he relates very well to those guys. He challenges them."
"It's awesome," said USM junior pitcher Mason Strickland, who played under Ostrander at JCJC. "He's very aggressive the way he does stuff. He likes people hustling 100 percent on and off the field. The little things that really matter and stick out. He knows that's what it takes to win a championship."
"He's big on thought process and just helping us think through each pitch," said USM sophomore pitcher Alex Nelms. "He's just big on mind games and just where you are on the mound. I think that's helped me a lot [to] just mature."
Coach "Oz" is met with a steep challenge in his first season at Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles look to replace three weekend starters – Kirk McCarty, Taylor Braley and Hayden Roberts – who were all selected in the 2017 MLB Draft.
"Early on when first meeting with those pitchers, I said let's be honest, we lost 40 starts," Ostrander said. "To me that's not a problem, that's opportunity. I knew then that the people were in that group, and they're here, to absorb that. It's their turn. That's what great college programs do."