A year after putting together a breakout season, D’Iberville product Dylan Hardy continues to be a juggernaut in the leadoff spot for South Alabama.
The junior had a 3-for-6 night against Southern Miss on Tuesday night to spark the Jaguars to a come-from-behind 10-9 victory at Stanky Field. Hardy scored a pair of runs and had one RBI.
After closing out the 2017 on a hot streak, the speedy left fielder hasn’t let up one bit to begin the new season.
“He’s been really good,” USA coach Mark Calvi said. “He had a good weekend (in a tournament) at Myrtle Beach last week. He had a couple of more hits tonight.
“He’s got good teammates around him, too. Those kids work extremely hard and Dylan is one of those guys. He came in as an unheralded freshman and he’s working himself into being a really, really good player for us.”
Hardy pushed his batting average to .296 after five games and that number should only climb with time.
The 21-year-old began to click at the plate in 2017 and found his power stroke late in the season. He finished with a .358 batting average, four homers and 28 RBIs.
MLB taking notice
For Hardy to find his stride at the plate, it was a matter of simply relaxing.
“I’d say it started around conference play (in 2017),” Hardy said. “I really just said, ‘Hey, I just want to go out and play.’ I want to have fun playing the game I’ve played my whole life.”
He’s proven ideal in the leadoff role. He scored 51 runs last year and stole 18 bases in 25 attempts.
The one knock on Hardy was his inexperience in the outfield, but that’s no longer an issue.
“This is my second year now playing outfield full-time,” Hardy said. “I’m more natural than I was.”
Hardy always had the reputation as a speed demon. Now that he’s proven he can consistently produce at the plate, Major League scouts have begun to take notice.
This will mark Hardy’s first year of draft eligibility, but he claims that’s not a major concern of his at the moment.
“Not really, no,” he said. “I just try to play the game and help us win anyway I can. I just try to play my game, get on base and hit.”
USA improved to 4-1 after Tuesday night’s contest and was ranked No. 17 by Collegiate Baseball to begin the week.
With a top MLB prospect in center field in Travis Swaggerty, USA has the talent and experience to make a deep postseason run after being eliminated after three games in the Hattiesburg Regional in 2017.
“I think we can win the conference, win a regional and go to a super and make a run for the College World Series,” Hardy said.
Southern Miss was in good shape to pull out the win with an 8-3 lead entering the sixth inning.
USM third baseman Luke Reynolds continued his hot start to the season, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and his second and third home runs of the season.
“Pretty disappointing to lose an 8-3 lead here,” USM head coach Scott Berry said. “We weren’t all in like we needed to be. It wasn’t that we just played terrible. We just didn’t make some plays defensively that we needed to.”
The Jaguars managed to get to a USM bullpen that helped set the tone in a three-game sweep of Mississippi State in Hattiesburg last week.
Starter Walker Powell was the most effective of seven Golden Eagle pitchers to take the mound Tuesday night. He gave up no runs on two hits in three innings, striking out four and walking four.
Six relief pitchers combined to allow 10 runs, seven earned. Sophomore right-hander Alex Nelms allowed three runs in just 1/3 innings.
Keller Bradford (0-1) took the loss after giving up a pair of runs in the eighth inning
“We’re going to have to get some other guys in there,” USM head coach Scott Berry said of his bullpen. “The guys we put in there, we had confidence. Those are guys you saw this weekend. We can’t keep going to the same ones.”