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Southern Miss’ Ostrander Settling In

  • Southern Miss and Mississippi State meet in Pearl for a Tuesday night matchup.

There’s college baseball in Pearl Tuesday night when Southern Miss takes on Mississippi State.

In years to come these Jackson-area visits by Mississippi’s three division I teams – back in the day we referenced them as the Big Three – could take on a whole new meaning depending on what happens to Trustmark Park in the non-affiliated minor league baseball era.

For now they’re midweek games with only slightly greater significance.

Neither team will throw their weekend pitchers, but there will be more fans in attendance than players will normally see on a Tuesday night.

The Jackson-area players will be amped up to be back in Central Mississippi. Sometimes that inspires them to greater heights.

There are two things State’s Chris Lemonis and Southern Miss’ Christian Ostrander will try to take from this game: an impactful resume-building win against a quality opponent on a neutral site and some momentum.

State and Ole Miss are coming off weekend series wins, but neither that qualify for a real surge back to national relevance.

State won three games against Mount St. Mary’s, a school that Google tells me is in Maryland.

Ole Miss won twice against Iowa, the preseason Big 10 favorites with a strong offense.

But these series wins haven’t moved the needle.

While Texas has five ranked teams and neighboring Alabama two, Mississippi is shut out of the Division I baseball rankings.

It doesn’t feel right. This is the sport where we’re supposed to do more than win the party.

While State and Ole Miss have struggled since national championships, Southern Miss has knocked on the door of Omaha twice with super regional home losses first to Ole Miss then last year against Tennessee.

Ostrander would also like to build some momentum.

He’s in his first year taking over for longtime successful coach Scott Berry.

When Berry stepped down there was no national search for his replacement. Southern Miss continued its modern day transition trend that has been a successful approach. It promoted from within. If the new coach wasn’t already on staff he was someone well-known to the program.

Experience notwithstanding it’s a change at the top for Southern Miss for just the fifth time in the last 65 years.

In the case of Ostrander he’d been Berry’s pitching coach for six years. A Monroe, La., native, Ostrander has spent most of his adult baseball life in Mississippi with coaching success at Jones College, Gulfport and Delta State before Berry hired him.

“He’s a dear friend. I love him like a brother. We hunt together. We do a lot of things together,” Ostrander says.

They still do baseball together albeit in different roles. Now Berry is the consultant, Ostrander the shot-caller.

The coaching staff isn’t the only part of Southern Miss baseball to experience change this season.

The Golden Eagles were 46-20 last year, Sun Belt Conference regular season runners-up and tournament champs.

They fell into the loser’s bracket at Auburn but came back to win that regional.

Ostrander’s debut team has six new regulars after losing 400 combined starts from last year’s lineup.

Twelve games in the Golden Eagles are 8-4.

They’ve won three-straight home series including this past weekend against Indiana State, a super regional team last year.

But they’ve swept no one and had a non-conference toe-stubber against Nicholls State in Biloxi.

Unlike State and Ole Miss, Southern Miss can’t expect that every conference weekend will bring the chance to bolster its RPI and strength of schedule.

The Golden Eagles have a big weekend in Ruston, La., coming up against former Conference USA rival Louisiana Tech.

Tuesday night, bragging rights, not so important for coaches, and resume-building are not mutually exclusive.

A win over an SEC team, even without weekend arms in the game, can help create momentum.

Ostrander could use a jolt of that as he and his mostly new lineup chart their own path.

“I’m just being me, being who I am, the same thing I’ve been trying to do out there the last six years,” he said.

Berry may or not be at Trustmark Park, but he’ll be in tune with what’s going on.

“He’s a mentor, and him feeling good about me being his successor means the world to me,” Ostrander said.

But he is the successor.

And as Chris Ostrander respects the past he knows the future is on his shoulders.

“There’s only one me, and that’s just fine. That’s not arrogance or ego. You’ve just got to be genuine and be who you are.”

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