Cody Carroll’s first two seasons at Southern Miss had flashes of brilliance, but he also showed signs that his approach needed more refining.
As a junior, he appears on his way to fulfilling the potential that head coach Scott Berry and the rest of the staff noticed in a young right-hander out of Mount Dora, Florida.
Carroll tossed three scoreless innings out of the bullpen in a 4-0 win over Holy Cross on Saturday as USM (8-5) finished off a badly-needed three-game sweep and a perfect 4-0 week at Pete Taylor Park.
Carroll was dominant while picking up the victory on Saturday, striking out six batters and walking none. Through 13 innings this season, the right-hander has an ERA of 0.69 with 14 strikeouts and three walks.
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“I think it’s age and experience,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “You hope a guy gets better as he gets older. I think that’s what he’s done. He’s figuring out how to pitch now. Guys early in their careers are throwers, thinking they can throw it by anybody. Guys sign here with good arms and that’s what they got away with at the level they were at. As you move up a level, you have to utilize your stuff. That’s what you’re seeing out of him and it’s coming at a really good time.”
The Southern Miss lineup has yet to to produce at the level expected with players like Matt Wallner and Matthew Guidry still trying to find consistency at the plate. USM entered Saturday’s game hitting .249 as a team.
While the Eagles look to find their bats, it will be up to the pitching staff to carry the team through the start of C-USA play, which begins on March 15 with a three-game series at Louisiana Tech.
Carroll was the Sunday starter for the Golden Eagles a freshman, but his ERA ballooned to 11.93 in 14 1/3 innings of work.
Carroll (1-0) showed vast improvement late in 2018 and his ERA dipped to 2.23 in his sophomore season as Berry and pitching coach Christian Ostrander began to use him in more important situations.
As part of a much deeper 2019 pitching staff, Carroll has become a key piece out of the bullpen as a reliever who can work deep in a game.
“The goal is to fill up the zone, get ahead, get strikes and get to the opportunity where I can get a strikeout,” Carroll said. “I trust what (pitching coach Christian Ostrander) calls.”
With a fastball that tops out around 92 miles per hour, Carroll has a deep repertoire of pitches that can keep hitters guessing.
“I’ve been implementing my curveball a lot more,” Carroll said. “I’ve been working on a cutter that’s just a different look than the sinker. Pitches-wise, my best pitches are strikes.”
He points back to his experience this past summer as part of the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League as playing a crucial point in his development. He finished 1-2 with a 4.80 ERA in nine appearances in a league that features many of college baseball’s best players.
“The level of competition was next level,” Carroll said. “Everybody up there was able to take it deep so you had to make sure you made every pitch.”
On a lighter note, Carroll also serves as one of USM’s main cheerleaders in the dugout with his fine-tuned “Dan Keat” celebration in honor of former Golden Eagle Daniel Keating.
The move involves Carroll pumping both hands in the air after the Eagles cross home plate.
“Somebody had to carry had on his legendary move,” Carroll said. “It’s an inspiration. We all have to come together to get the best out of it. If you get enough Dan Keats going, you’re going to win.”
Sophomore left fielder Gabe Montenegro went up to the plate looking for a fastball to lead off the bottom of the first and he sent one just over the wall in left center to kick start the offense for the Golden Eagles on Saturday. The Guatemala native finished 1-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Two other Golden Eagles had a pair of hits, catcher Bryant Bowen and shortstop Will McGillis, as they gathered nine hits total.
Senior lefty Adam Jackson received his first start of the season and lasted 4 innings, giving up two hits while striking out two and walking a pair. He lasted 55 pitches, throwing 34 strikes.