Sandlin blanks UAB in C-USA Tournament opener

By CAMAL PETRO,

BILOXI – The near 24-hour delay of Southern Miss’ opening game of the Conference USA Tournament didn’t faze junior Nick Sandlin. He was scheduled to start the Thursday game of the tournament anyway.

Sandlin’s performance helped Southern Miss earn a 2-0 win over UAB at MGM Park to put the Golden Eagles in the winner’s bracket of the tournament.

“When we got his full weeks rest, to us, it’s a no-brainer,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said on the decision to go with Sandlin over Wednesday’s scheduled starter, Stevie Powers. “We went right back to what we were doing for most of the year.”

The C-USA Pitcher of the Year had only one hiccup during his outing, but he handled it as well as any pitcher could in a one-out, bases-loaded situation. After a leadoff double then a single by UAB, Sandlin fielded a sacrifice bunt for the first out before hitting a batter to load up the bases.

Back-to-back strikeouts ended the inning and kept the game scoreless for the time being. Redshirt sophomore Matthew Guidry would give Southern Miss a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning on a sac fly to center.

“It was kind of tough the first couple of innings,” Sandlin said. “I didn’t have too long to warm up, so just going straight from the warm up to the first inning right there on the field. It was kind of tough, but then I got settled in and it didn’t really bother me too much after that.”

Sandlin finished the contest with 12 strikeouts and only one walk, and he allowed just four hits while pitching the shutout. Thursday was the seventh time this season Sandlin recorded double-digit strikeouts, and he faced the minimum six times out of his nine innings pitched.

“No, not really,” Sandlin said when asked if Thursday was as good as he’s felt on the mound this season. “I felt all right. Good enough.”

After cruising through eight innings, Sandlin ran into some trouble in the ninth. The Blazers brought the go-ahead runner to the plate, but the Southern Miss right-hander got a strikeout and a fly out to end the game.

Southern Miss pitching coach Christian Ostrander paid Sandlin a visit with two on base and one out, too.

“I think he was just trying to slow things down,” Sandlin said. “Just make sure I was all right. Just slowing it down and make sure to stay calm and focus on executing the pitch.”

Southern Miss will play UTSA at 12:30 p.m. on Friday in the winner’s bracket of the tournament. Powers will get the start after the weather caused him to miss his Wednesday’s start. It’ll be his first time back on the mound since May 5 when he left a game due to forearm soreness.

Friday, May 25 (available on ESPN3)

Game 7         Florida Atlantic vs. Rice                          9 a.m.

Game 8         Southern Miss vs. UTSA                         12:30 p.m.

Game 9         Louisiana Tech vs. Loser game 7             4 p.m.

Game 10       Charlotte vs. Loser game 8                       7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 26 (available on ESPN3)

Game 11       Winner Game 7 vs. Winner game 9           9 a.m.

Game 12       Winner Game 8 vs. Winner game 10       12:30 p.m.

Game 13       Same teams as Game 11                            4 p.m. (if necessary)

Game 14       Same teams as Game 12                            7:30 p.m. (if necessary)

Sunday, May 27 (televised by CBS Sports Network)

Championship Game                                                        1 p.m.