How a freshman from Brandon saved Southern Miss’ season
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Golden Eagles were 18-11 before the entrance of freshman Nick Monistere into the lineup as the team’s starting second baseman. Fast forward to June 5, Southern Miss is the Auburn Regional champions and is now hosting back-to-back Super Regionals for the first time in program history.
A lot of the program’s success down the stretch is directly attributed to Monistere’s play. The Brandon, Mississippi, native and pitcher-turned-second baseman has added stability and flare to the now-complete lineup since taking over at second base.
The big moments inside of an SEC stadium were not too bright for the freshman, who time and time again put his youth to the side in the Auburn Regional and made massive plays when the team needed it most.
“He’s not a freshman,” shortstop Dustin Dickerson told WDAM after beating the University of Pennsylvania 11-2 late Sunday night. “He’s been my guy since day one, and I’m super proud of him. Funny story, he hasn’t been hitting until I let him use my bat... so he can give me some credit,” he joked.
“He’s like a little brother [to me]. And I’ve been pushing for him since day one.”
On June 4, Southern Miss was trailing Samford 4-3 after five innings. The Golden Eagles had lost to the Bulldogs on the opening day of the Auburn Regional, and were now staring at the face of elimination.
With runners on second and third base for Southern Miss, Nick Monistere, or the “Loch Ness Monistere” to the Southern Miss faithful, sliced a two-run RBI double down the right field line to give USM the go-ahead runs, leading 5-4 and ultimately knocking Samford out of the tournament by the score of 9-4.
“Just really proud of our guys,” head coach Scott Berry said after the win. “To know their backs were against the wall and in a must-win situation. Outstanding job by our team overall. Offensively, we continued to get the big hits that we needed.”
Less than eight hours later, Monistere’s number would be called again.
After regaining a narrow 3-2 lead against the University of Pennsylvania, Monistere hit a two-run RBI single to give Southern Miss some insurance runs in an eight-run inning to cap off a 3-4 day at the plate, along with 3 total RBIs. Southern Miss won 11-2.
“Dustin gave me his bat because both of mine were all dented up, so I wasn’t allowed to use them. I told him I’d give him credit for that,” Monistere said when asked about his stellar hitting. “Lately, I’ve been off time... getting jammed too much, so today, I just tried to find the barrel.”
The next day, Southern Miss would play Penn again for the Auburn Regional championship for a spot in a Super Regional. Trailing 5-1, Monistere hit an RBI single in the top of the fourth inning that sparked a four-run inning for Southern Miss to tie the game at five a piece.
USM won that game 11-8 and is now hosting another Super Regional in Coach Berry’s final season as the head coach of the program, having the opportunity to coach in front of the Golden Eagle faithful one last time.
In the Auburn Regional, the Brandon native recorded eight hits in 20 total at-bats - good for a batting average of .400 along with six RBIs. He was also named to the All-Auburn Regional team.
Monistere and Southern Miss will play the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Pete Taylor Park in a highly-anticipated Super Regional matchup. The game will be streamed on ESPNU.
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