The Southern Miss baseball team hopes a little local flair will help end a two-game skid at Biloxi’s MGM Park Tuesday night.
Freshman right-hander Alex Nelms, a former Gulfport ace, will make the first start of his USM career at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday against Nicholls State at the home of the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers.
Nelms has been solid out of the bullpen this season, going 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in eight appearances.
“I just think he’s been doing well and (pitching coach Michael Federico) is the one that’s really been handling everything,” USM coach Scott Berry said Monday. “He’s been giving us both the feeling that he’s ready for it.”
Nelms was 6-2 with 0.36 ERA in 11 appearances as a senior at Gulfport last year, earning him a spot on the Sun Herald All-South Mississippi Team.
Nelms has had a couple of three-inning outings this season, but he will look for his longest appearance yet against Nicholls State, which is 20-18 overall.
“He has very good mound presence out there,” Berry said of Nelms. “He has very good pitch ability. We’ll give him the ball and let him take us as far as he can go. I talked to him when we got back last night and he’s excited. He’s appreciative of the opportunity.”
Nicholls has a 7-8 conference mark to sit in a tie for seventh place with Central Arkansas in the Southland Conference.
USM lost both of its games at MGM Park last season – 4-2 to South Alabama and 12-7 to Tulane.
Tuesday night’s game is the first of two regular season for USM in Biloxi this season. The Eagles will return to MGM Park on May 16 for a game against Southeastern Louisiana.
The Golden Eagles will look to get a good feel for MGM Park before taking part in the Conference USA Tournament in Biloxi from May 24-28. The top eight teams qualify for the event, which was held in Hattiesburg the last three seasons.
USM (28-9) enters Tuesday night’s game ranked in all five major college baseball polls, ranging from No. 16 in the D1Baseball.com Poll to No. 22 in the Collegiate Baseball rankings.
USM won two of three games last over the weekend at Rice to stay atop the Conference USA standings with a league mark of 12-3. Florida Atlantic sits in second place at 11-4 and Old Dominion is in third at 10-5.
Sunday’s 17-6 win over Rice (13-25, 4-11) was crucial to keep USM on track to be the No. 1 seed for the C-USA Tournament in Biloxi.
“Nobody wants to be the one that wakes up the sleeping giant,” Berry said of his team’s series against a struggling Rice squad. “They came out yesterday in that third and deciding game and took a 4-1 lead. That’s a credit to our guys. (Junior relief pitcher) Colt Smith pitched well and our offense came in with the 1-2 punch.”
USM will travel to Tulane for a 6:30 p.m. game on Wednesday before beginning a crucial three-game series against Old Dominion at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Berry has yet to decide on his starting pitcher for Wednesday night.
Who: Southern Miss vs. Nicholls State
When: 7:05 p.m., Tuesday
Where: MGM Park, Biloxi
Radio: WPMO-1580 AM