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Home Road Trip Sycamores continue road trip with key weekend series at Southern Miss

Sycamores continue road trip with key weekend series at Southern Miss

by Staff

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Indiana State continues its season-opening road trip this weekend with a key nonconference series featuring two 2023 NCAA Super Regional teams as the Sycamores travel down to Hattiesburg, Miss. for a three-game set against Southern Miss. All three games for the weekend are set to be streamed live on ESPN+ with live stats available on GoSycamores.com.
 
The Sycamores (7-1) earned the No. 14 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament and hosted the Terre Haute Regional, before traveling down to Fort Worth, Texas and falling in the Super Regional to TCU. The Golden Eagles (6-3) advanced through the Auburn Regional beating Penn in the championship game to advance on to the Supers. USM hosted Tennessee in the Hattiesburg Super Regional before falling to the visiting Volunteers over the three-game series played at Pete Taylor Park.
 
The weekend series has been labeled the Mid-Major Spotlight Series by D1Baseball with both teams starting off the 2024 season strong. The Sycamores went undefeated in their Florida swing at the start of the year topping Louisville, UConn, South Florida, FGCU, Michigan State, and Marshall, before getting tripped up with their first loss of the year this past Tuesday at Vanderbilt. Southern Miss took two of three from Marist to star the year, topped Air Force and New Orleans, and took the series against Missouri State this past weekend, before falling to Nicholls State in extra innings.
 
ISU is looking to bounce back from its first loss of the 2024 season after falling in a run-rule shortened game on Tuesday night in Nashville to No. 9 Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt scored in every inning to take control early in the 20-4 win on a windy day at Hawkins Field.
 
Mike Sears powered Indiana State’s offense with a three-run home run in the top of the fourth inning for his first big fly of the season against the Commodores. The ball measured out to 460-feet off the bat in one of the longest home runs off the bat of a right-handed hitter at Hawkins Field scoring Parker Stinson and Adam Pottinger to put ISU’s first runs on the board.
 
Brennyn Cutts took the loss on the mound after going the first inning allowing three hits and two runs while striking out one. Cam Edmonson, Cole Gilley, Brayden Lybarger, and Adam Berghorst also pitched on Tuesday as the Sycamores staff struggled surrendering eight walks and two hit-by-pitch against four strikeouts in the game.
 
The Sycamores look to bounce back and continue one of the strongest opening stretches to a season in program history after ISU started the season on a seven-game winning streak. It marked just the sixth time in program history dating back to 1924 that the Sycamores won their first seven games of the year and tied for the third-longest streak to open a season. It equaled ISU’s previous-best mark under Coach Mitch Hannahs to open a season dating back to the 2019 year when ISU won 20 of their first 22 contests on their way to going 43-18 and advancing to the NCAA postseason.
 
Parker Stinson (.357) continues to be one of the hottest bats in the lineup for the Sycamores posting team-highs in batting average, hits (10), and home runs (7), while adding five runs scored. Randal Diaz saw his 27-game on-base streak come to an end on Tuesday, but the ISU leadoff batter also has 10 hits and seven RBIs on the season with a .323 average.
 
Dominic Listi continues to impress in the early part of the season with the transfer sitting as the only Sycamore to reach base safely in all eight games on the year while posting a .292 average. Listi has also reached base 11 times courtesy of free passes (five walks, six HBPs) on the year to post a .500 OBP. Luis Hernandez and Adam Pottinger both doubled against Vanderbilt and have seen their bats come to life recently. Hernandez paces the Sycamores with eight RBIs on the season, while Pottinger has a team-high four doubles on the year.
 
The Sycamore pitching staff features two of the top arms in the NCAA over the first two weeks of the season with Jacob Pruitt (0.77 ERA, 20 strikeouts) and Luke Hayden (0.00 ERA, 10 strikeouts) looking to be back on the mound this weekend against Southern Miss. Pruitt entered the week fourth in the NCAA in total strikeouts and is coming off a 5.2-inning, 11-K outing against Marshall where the Sycamore right-hander struck out the first five batters he faced in the contest. Hayden has gone back-to-back outings without an earned run against South Florida and Marshall including going the first six frames in ISU’s 5-0 win over USF on the season’s opening weekend.
 
Altogether, 14 Indiana State pitchers have combined for a 3.93 ERA on the season over 71.0 innings pitched. The Sycamores have posted an 83:23 strikeout-to-walk ratio allowing opponents to hit .249 from the plate. Cam Edmonson, Adam Berghorst, and Zach Davidson have all made three appearances on the mound this season, while closer Jared Spencer (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 SV) continues to headline the bullpen in late game situations.
 
The Sycamore defense is looking to bounce back this week after struggling early in the year. Indiana State returns three Gold Glove finalists to the field in Josue Urdaneta (2B), Mike Sears (3B), and reigning Gold Glove winning catcher Grant Magill, but 16 errors over the first eight games have led to 14 unearned runs early. ISU continues to fine-tune the unit that finished third in the NCAA in fielding percentage (.983) in the 2023 season.
 
Scouting the Opponents
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Southern Miss was picked second in the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll prior to the start of the season in a vote by all 14 league schools. The Golden Eagles received 173 total points to finish behind Coastal Carolina (193) in the poll, while starting pitchers Niko Mazza and Billy Oldham were named to the SBC Preseason All-Conference team. USM lost six position players from last year’s Super Regional run, as well as several key pieces on the pitching staff last year.
 
Mazza pitched in 21 games (13 starts) and posted a 5-2 record with two saves to go along with a 4.34 ERA a season ago. The right-hander fanned 89 and walked 46 over 74 2/3 innings and finished fifth in the Sun Belt Conference in opponents’ batting average (.236), ninth in ERA and 11th in innings pitched. He garnered preseason Pitcher of the Year nod by D1Baseball.com, went at least five innings in seven starts during the year and whiffed at least five hitters in 10 appearances.
 
Oldham appeared in 18 games and made 13 starts for the Golden Eagles in his first season in 2023. The right-hander posted an 8-3 record with a 4.21 ERA and a save. He fanned 89 and walked 23 over 77 innings, while ranking second in opponents’ batting average (.221), tied third for strikeouts looking (26), fifth in fewest walks allowed (23), tied for sixth in wins, seven in ERA, tied for eighth in strikeouts, and ninth in innings pitched among the SBC leaders.
 
Additional preseason honors for USM came for designated hitter Slade Wilks as the team captain earned Second Team NCBWA recognition. He posted a .289 batting average with 20 home runs and 58 RBI, while adding 12 doubles, two triples and scored 50 times, while walking 30 times.
 
The Southern Miss offense has struggled early in the season with a team batting average of .229 over their first nine games played. Carson Paetow leads the way with a .269 average with five extra-bases, while Ozzie Pratt is the team’s hits (10) and runs (7) leader while adding three doubles.
 
The pitching staff has been strong early paced by Mazza (1-0, 2.38 ERA) and Oldham (1-0, 2.70 ERA) on the mound, while Colby Allen (1-0, 1.86 ERA) and Will Armistead (0-0, 2.00 ERA) have also stood out through the first two weeks of the season. Overall, 16 different arms have taken the mound for USM this season in posting a staff 3.62 ERA over 82.0 innings. The pitchers have combined for a 106:30 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing opponents to hit .220 from the plate.
 
Series History

The Sycamores and Golden Eagles have faced each other twice in program history dating back to the inaugural contest in 2004. USM has taken both games against the Sycamores winning by 3-1 (2004) and 2-1 (2005) margins in neutral site contests played in Lake Charles, La. and Beaumont, Texas. It marks the first time the two teams have lined up against each other in Hattiesburg. Of note, both previous contests between Indiana State and Southern Miss occurred on March 5 of the year (2004 & 2005).
 
Follow the Sycamores
For the latest information on the Sycamore Baseball team, make sure to check out GoSycamores.com. You can also find the team on social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Fans can also receive updates on Sycamore Athletics by downloading the March On App from both the App Store and the Google Play Store.

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