USM’s set to return to the mound

USM’s set to return to the mound
The Golden Eagle ace finished the 2018 season with a 10-0 record, a 1.06 ERA, 144 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 102.1 innings. (Photo source: WDAM)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - One of the questions regarding the University of Southern Mississippi's pitching staff coming into the 2018 baseball season was just how long it might take Walker Powell to recover from arm issues that cost him the 2017 season.

As it turns out, not very long at all.

Powell, a sophomore right-hander from Fayetteville, Ark., was announced as USM's starting pitcher when the 13th-ranked Golden Eagles (3-0) visit No. 17 University of South Alabama (3-1) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Eddie Stanky Field.

The 6-foot-7, 191-pound Powell made an impact in his first season in 2016, posting a 4-3 record with a 3.46 ERA. He appeared in 18 games, working his way to Sunday starter for four games in May.

The Golden Eagles are coming a season-opening sweep of nationally-ranked Mississippi State. USM outscored  the Bulldogs 23-6, hitting .296 with 29 hits in the three games of the Farm Bureau Classic.

USM's pitching finished the series with a 2.00 ERA, limiting MSU to 20 hits, including six in an 11-0 win in Friday's opener and three in a 5-2 sweep-clinching victory Sunday.

Two Golden Eagles were honored for their weekend play by Conference USA, earning the league's first weekly awards of the season.

Junior right-hander Nick Sandlin was named C-USA Pitcher of the Week after stifling the Bulldogs Friday night in the first start of his USM career. Sandlin allowed only four singles over seven shutout innings, striking out a career-high nine batters and walking none.

Junior third baseman Luke Reynolds, who had to sit out the past two seasons because of NCAA transfer guidelines, was named C-USA Player of the Week. Reynolds ranked against former teammates, going 6-for-10 (.600), with half the hits going for extra bases (two doubles, home run).

Reynolds scored six times, including three times in the Friday opener, drove in five runs and stole a base during the series. Reynolds broke a 2-2 Sunday when he drove a 1-2 pitch into the right-center field gap for a two-run double and then scored at the end of the play on a throwing error.

The Jaguars opened their season with consecutive wins over Kansas State University (12-5), No. 18 University of Oklahoma (6-5) and Virginia Tech (7-5) before losing 8-4 to No. 23 University of Indiana on a walk-off grand slam  in the 19th Annual Brittain Resorts "Baseball at the Beach" in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

USM and USA are each ranked in the Top 25 of four collegiate baseball polls, including:

  • Collegiate Baseball: USM, No. 13; USA, No. 17

  • USM, No. 15; USA, No. 18

  • National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association: USM, No. 15; USA, No. 20

  • Baseball America: USM, No. 17; USA, No. 21