Southern Miss junior right-hander Nick Sandlin got the call Monday night that every young baseball player dreams about.
The Cleveland Indians made Sandlin the 67th overall pick in the second round of the MLB Draft, making him one of the highest draft picks in USM history.
Sandlin, who is known for keeping his cool under pressure, was hanging out with his girlfriend and USM catcher Bryant Bowen when he got the news from his agent.
“I was like, 'Are you serious?'” Sandlin said Tuesday morning. “(The team) called and said, 'You're going to be a Cleveland Indian.' I was pretty excited, but it immediately got serious. 'We're doing it.' I just got off the phone and enjoyed it.”
Sandlin becomes the third USM player to become a second-round selection in the MLB Draft, joining Tommy Davis (Orioles) in 1994 and Brandon Parker (Mariners) in 1997. Frank Baker was drafted by the Yankees in the second round of the 1967 secondary draft. No USM player has ever been chosen in the first round.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Sandlin hasn't worked out the details on a contract or where he's headed in the Indians organization, but he's ready to take the next step in his baseball career after earning All-American status in all three years at USM.
The Evans, Georgia, native pieced together one of the best seasons in the nation this year and was named the winner of the 2018 Ferriss Trophy, which goes to Mississippi's top college baseball player. He finished 10-0 with a nation-leading 1.06 ERA in 15 starts. In 102 1/3 innings, he struck out 144 and walked 18.
“I was just glad I could be so consistent,” Sandlin said. “The control has been what I've been most proud of. I had better command this season, limiting those walks. I could eat up innings for the staff on a Friday night. I never really had that bad start.”
While there was a long list of teams that showed interest in Sandlin, he wasn't surprised when it was the Indians who made the pick.
“I know they liked me a good bit. There were times when they were sending two or three guys at a time out to watch me,” he said.
As a member of the Cleveland organization, Sandlin will be joining a former USM teammate of his from the 2016 and 2017 seasons – left-hander Kirk McCarty, who is a member of the Single-A Lake County (Ohio) Captains.
McCarty, who was a seventh-round selection by the Indians in 2017, was one of the many people to reach out to Sandlin since he was chosen late Monday night.
“He is pretty excited. He was asking where they were going to send me and stuff,” Sandlin said. “I'm sure Kirk put in a good word for me with the scouts and stuff. I guess it paid off. Hopefully we get to play together soon.”
Sandlin, who throws from multiple arm angles and features a 93-mph fastball, isn't sure which role the Indians will want him in. His first two seasons were spent as a closer at USM with a total of 20 saves and a record of 13-5. When USM moved him to the starter role this year, he proved even better.
“I've told teams that it doesn't matter as long as I get out there,” he said. “We'll talk more detail in the next couple of days. Most teams said they were not going to limit me to the bullpen. I can always fall back into that if it doesn't work out as a starter.”
The USM season came to an end on Sunday when the Golden Eagles (44-18) lost 9-4 to Dallas Baptist in the Fayetteville Regional. Sandlin was on the mound for USM's only win in the regional, tossing seven innings in a 9-0 win over Dallas Baptist on Friday.
The season came to an end earlier than he'd hoped, but Sandlin has had a chance recently to look back on three successful years at USM.
“It's been all I could ask for in a college experience,” Sandlin said. “I've been part of a great team, three winning seasons. I'll leave here with three rings. There's not more you could ask for. I got to play for coach (Scott) Berry, (Chad) Caillet, (Michael) Federico and (Christian) Ostrander this year. It was just awesome to have the opportunity to play here. My freshman year, I got to play with my brother (Jake). I've been part of some very good teams.”
Southern Miss junior third baseman Luke Reynolds was chosen in the 10th round by the Chicago Cubs with the 308th overall pick on Tuesday.
At 23 years of age, Reynolds may have an easy choice to make.
Early Ole Miss pick
Ole Miss sophomore left-hander Ryan Rolison was the first player from a Mississippi college to be drafted on Monday. The Colorado Rockies made him the 22nd overall selection in the first round.
Rolison was 10-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 17 appearances this season for the Rebels.
Ole Miss junior right-hander Brady Feigl was chosen in the fifth round by the Athletics as the 143rd overall pick.
Another Ole Miss junior, catcher Nick Fortes, was taken by the Marlins in the fourth round.