Miss South is flying in the major leagues

Hattiesburg, Miss Southern (WDAM) – Michael Federico and the two former assistant coaches of Miss Southern made a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, last Monday to watch three of their former players play Major League Baseball.

Cleveland Guardians players Nick Sandlin and Kirk McCarty are rooted in a race for the Central American League title.

Matt Wallner was making his MLB debut with the Minnesota Twins. As if he was introducing himself to the pro ranks, Wallner’s first career success was his solo run at home in the eighth inning from former Cy Young winner, Shane Bieber.

Very typical of a career USM leader in home running (58).

“I got the first hit and the first Zoomer out of the way in one, so that was a good little monkey off my back there,” Wallner said.

“Seeing him have a little bit of success but we still topped most of those games was good too,” said Sandlin, a teammate of Wallner in 2017 and 2018 when the Golden Eagles won back-to-back USA titles. “I told him I hope he hits like a meaningless house running away from a center player or something like that it doesn’t matter.”

“It was very special,” McCarty said. “And after Wallner hit me home in Triple-A, I was hoping to get a bat against him, trying to right that ship. So it was fun, we hit all those goals.”

McCarty would have made Wallner fly two games later—not before Wallner had bumped Homer in two rounds off McCarty in the August 11 St. Paul Saints competition with the Columbus Clippers.

Fate took several innings for all three Golden Eagles to end up at Progressive Field last week.

McCarty was initially called up by The Guardians in April before being hired in July by both the Cleveland and Baltimore Orioles.

Since his return to the Guardians, McCarty has been intent on holding on – posting a 4-2 average with a 4.28 win and 1.34 WHIP.

“I think you always expect challenges along the way,” said McCarty, an Oak Grove graduate. “It’s an elite group of guys here and there’s always someone pushing you behind you. Getting here is one thing but staying is a completely different story. Come every day, come to work and find out how to improve a little.”

Like their days in Hattiesburg, McCarty and Sandlin continue to fight on the battlefield.

Sandlin played five games for Cleveland affiliate Triple-A this season before establishing himself as a vital piece of the Guardians.

The side hitter hit 38 hitters in his second MLB season, boasting a 2.14 ERA while hitting opponents only 0.172 against him.

“I think one of my main goals was just to have a full healthy season and be a consistent part of this game that the team can count on in whatever role has been assigned to me,” Sandlin said.

Meanwhile, Wallner hacked into Minnesota’s farm system, hitting 277 with 27 homeowners before calling him on September 17.

“It’s more of the same with more cameras,” said Wallner, a resident of Forest Lake, Minnesota. “It’s the same game I’ve played all my life. Obviously on the bigger stage and what not, there are a lot better players out there but at the end of the day it’s still baseball. You just have to slow your mind down.”

Catcher Chuckie Robinson joined his Southern Miss bros on August 11, calling up the Cincinnati Reds after nearly six years of hopping in the minor leagues.

Wallner’s promo just one month later made USM’s 22nd baseball product reach the major leagues.

These four men will say that Miss Southern prepared them to play at the highest level.

Representing the Lions and Golds in the major leagues is their great pride.

“It was great that the fans reached out to us so much and supported us,” Sandlin said. “We definitely keep up with the teams that are still out there.”

“The success we’ve had at Southern Miss, is to have three players in a big league game in one place,” Wallner said. “Just happy for the program because we achieved the success that gave us this opportunity.”

“Southern Miss School was the only school on the planet for the first 15 years of my life in my eyes,” McCarty said. “So, it is a great honor for me to help represent Miss South at this level and to see other players represented at this level.”

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