Freshman Weirich turns in solid weekend against MSUBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG –Southern Miss pitching coach Chris Ostrander has quite a few options in the bullpen to go to this season, but freshman Jacob Weirich became the first Golden Eagle to appear in multiple games on the opening weekend.
“I’m very proud of the true lefty, Jacob Weirich, and how he’s responded now in two of the three games,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “He’s shown us that presence, much older than what he is. He’s a really good competitor and has tremendous confidence.”
Weirich, along with 10 other pitchers who saw action on the bump over the weekend, held Mississippi State to six runs over the three-game series. With that, Southern Miss swept Mississippi State by finishing it off with a 5-2 win Sunday.
Weirich, a Jefferson City, Mo. native, began his colligate career with the series against the SEC, in-state rival. He already knew the tradition of Southern Miss baseball being in the Top 20 nationally in attendance, but actually trotting out to the mound to pitch in front of the record-setting crowd opened his eyes more.
Southern Miss announced 4,970 fans attended Sunday’s win and 14,906 were counted for the weekend total, making it the most attended three-game series in Southern Miss baseball history.
“It’s huge,” Weirich said of the sweep. “Just being a part of this culture, it’s like a home away from home. To beat a rival like this, our first series out, it really shows me what Southern Miss baseball is about.”
Not only was Weirich the first pitcher to play in multiple games, he was the first Golden Eagle out of the bullpen Friday in the 11-0, season-opening win. He pitched one inning while giving up two hits with one strikeout.
“I talked to coach Oz a little bit about it,” Weirich said when asked about being the first pitcher called to enter the game. “Coming off a couple of bullpens in the offseason, he said just be ready. I was prepared for it, definitely.
“There’s definitely a rush. It’s really exciting. I tried not to focus on the crowd too much. I just tried to focus in on the catcher and make my pitches. With the defense behind me like the one we have, I’m not really afraid to let them swing the bat.”
Weirich entered the game Sunday in the fourth inning after Mississippi State’s Tanner Poole and Jake Mangum reached on back-to-back two-out singles that put runners on the corners. Weirich threw a wild pitch to allow Mangum to move into scoring position, but he recorded his first strikeout to end the threat during the same at-bat.
“I just wanted to get a ground ball,” Weirich said. “With the kind of infield we have, they’re pretty lockdown. I was just trying to fill it up, but I was lucky to get a swing and a miss on that last pitch.”
After pitching out of the jam in the fourth, Weirich pitched 2.2 innings of no-hit ball. He struck out three in his outing and walked two. He began his day by sitting down the first seven batters he faced, but he walked the leadoff man in the seventh, which prompted a visit from Ostrander. After getting Mangum to fly out, he allowed his second walk to put two on with one out.
Sophomore Cody Carroll replaced Weirich after the walk, then proceeded to get Southern Miss out of the jam.
“It felt really good,” Weirich said of his performance. “I got some confidence out there, and I was able to work ahead and pitch my kind of game. I started to get ahead of myself in my mechanics, you know, trying to do too much. I’ll learn from that.”
Weirich said his fastball was working well Sunday, but missed a couple of times with his curveball. If he can get that pitch over for a strike consistently, it makes his fastball better, he added.
Southern Miss is back in action Tuesday at Southern Alabama for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.