Matthew Etzel a very welcome addition to Southern Miss baseball

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 7:38 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The reviews are raving on Southern Miss junior outfielder Matthew Etzel.

“He stands out for sure,” said junior pitcher Tanner Hall.

“I think from the first intrasquad he was pretty much the best hitter on the team,” said senior third baseman Danny Lynch.

“Real exciting player that I think is going to be a big impact for us,” said head coach Scott Berry.

A native of League City, Texas, Etzel signed with Texas A&M out of high school before transferring to Panola College where he finished with a .391 batting average over two seasons. touted Etzel as the No. 1 junior college transfer in the country after he batted .433 with 49 runs batted in and 20 steals in 2022.

He attended the MLB Draft league last summer where he batted .371 with 22 RBI and 25 steals.

“I’ll bring a lot of pressure on the defense of the opposing team every game,” Etzel said. “I like to steal a lot of bags. I like to get on base and I also love to hawk balls down in center field.”

“He’s got speed, he’s got power, especially gap power,” Berry said. “I think he’s going to surprise you and hit a little bit more home runs but he’s going to hit a bunch of doubles just because he’s quick out of the box, he can really run, he hits from the left side. And I think he’s gonna hit for an average. He’s got one of the best strike zone awareness I think that we’ve seen in a long time. He just spits on a lot of pitches that a lot of people get themselves out on.”

Berry expects Etzel to bat leadoff after putting together one of the best falls he’s seen from a center fielder in his 23 years at Southern Miss.

It didn’t take long for Etzel’s new teammates to realize what he’s bringing to the table.

“He’s just really physical,” said Hall, named to the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List on Friday. “I think he plays the game aggressively. In the box he looks comfortable. He’s always going for a double, he’s going for the extra base and I feel like that’s where a good hitter’s found is the guys that are trying to do the extra stuff.”

“He’s probably the most unique hitter I’ve ever played with,” Lynch said. “And you’ll see it this year, he’ll take a swing and you’ll be like, ‘Looked like he swung 50 percent speed there. Why’d he do that?’ And then he’ll do it on another pitch and he’ll get a hit.”

Of course, that ability to adjust to a pitch mid-swing all starts in the batting cage – where Etzel can really hone in on his mechanics.

“A relentless worker - he’s here every night, has been hitting after everybody’s left,” Berry said. “Matter of fact I told him the other night before I left, don’t be afraid to turn the lights on.”

“At first I didn’t actually know where the switch was,” Etzel said. “I didn’t know we had one or anything.”

Etzel’s made himself at home in just a short amount of time and can’t wait to play in front of the Black & Gold faithful at Pete Taylor Park.

“I think my favorite thing about this program is just the tradition they have with each other,” Etzel said. “As soon as I got here to this campus and on the team the first week the bond with everybody was just so strong so fast.”

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