Rice coach Wayne Graham talks Southern Miss

Rice coach Wayne Graham talks Southern Miss
USM pitcher Nick Sandlin. Courtesy: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Despite falling to Rice 7-6 on Sunday, Southern Miss still ranks as high as No. 12 in the nation by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

The Golden Eagles hold a record of 19-7 (6-2 Conference USA) with about half of their season remaining. Head coach Scott Berry expressed concerns with USM's bullpen following Sunday's blown lead to the Owls.

However, it's not hard to see the Eagles' potential, especially if you're a veteran coach like Rice's Wayne Graham. The 81-year-old skipper, who's been coaching the Owls for 27 years, talked about Southern Miss on Sunday.

"They obviously have two of the best hitters in the country right in the middle of the lineup, or three with [Hunter] Slater," Graham said. "And the rest of their team is solid. Southern Miss will go as far as their pitching will take them and they got the best starter [Nick Sandlin] in the conference. So if they can piece together the rest of it, they can make a long run in the playoffs."

For the second time in three weeks, USM junior Nick Sandlin was named the Conference USA pitcher of the week and a Collegiate Baseball National player of the week. Sandlin struck out 13 batters and allowed just two hits in a career-high eight innings in the Eagles' 12-1 win over Rice on Friday.

USM hosts Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games begin at 6 p.m.