University of Southern Mississippi junior third baseman Luke Reynolds not only has had a baseball season to remember but one that he will always be remembered for in Conference USA’s annals.
Reynolds became the first player in C-USA baseball history to earn Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year in the same season.
The junior from Forest, who had not played since the 2015 season after transferring from Mississippi State, showed little sign of his time.
Reynolds finished the regular season hitting .403 with 19 doubles, 15 home runs, 58 RBIs and 67 runs scored. He led C-USA in seven different hitting categories and was named conference Hitter of the Week three times.
“I don’t know if I was surprised,” Reynolds said of his stellar season. “I knew what I was capable of and knew I was capable of doing this. To put it all together, it’s been great.
“Now, I have to keep doing it in the postseason when it matters.”
The Golden Eagles, which won a second consecutive conference regular-season championship, opens postseason play at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the 2018 Conference USA Baseball Tournament at MGM Park in Biloxi.
USM (39-15), the top seed in the eight-team, double-elimination tourney, will take on eighth-seeded University of Alabama-Birmingham (21-31) in the opening round.
Reynolds, who led C-USA in slugging percentage (.749) and walks (56), was one of the five finalists for the 2018 C-Spire Ferriss Trophy, awarded annually to the top college player in Mississippi.
Reynolds’ teammate, right-handed pitcher Nick Sandlin, was awarded the trophy Monday.
Tuesday, Reynolds, Sandlin and sophomore outfielder Matt Wallner were announced as first-team All-C-USA selections, with Sandlin earning C-USA Pitcher of the Year honors.
“You’re talking about one of the best years for both (Reynolds) and Nick who’s ever played at Southern Miss,” said USM Coach Scott Berry, who won a second consecutive Keith LeClair Trophy as C-USA’s Coach of the Year.
“But those are guys who are difference makers, and they do things different. Their approach to the game, their work outside the lines getting ready, their preparation’s different. Their talents have not taken them to this level alone. There’re a lot of things that they do that are different from others.”
Berry, who has been named C-USA coach of the year three times in his nine seasons at the helm, said the award is a about the entire program.
“I share that with our coaches and our players,” Berry said. “Nobody wins anything by themselves. There’s always an important supporting cast surrounding anybody who wins an award.”
“It’s been great,” Reynolds said. “I couldn’t wait to get back on the field after sitting out, and these guys, the program, the coaches, the fans, it’s just been awesome, the greatest baseball experience I’ve ever had.”
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