Recruiting in college baseball can be a funny thing. Typically, coaches spend several years scouting a particular player, building a relationship with him and his family all along the way. If they do that well enough, they may secure a commitment from the player to come play for their school. If the player is too good, though, all of that work can be undone if the player is drafted and ends up signing with an MLB team.
Other times, a player and a team just simply seem to luck into each other, and that was the case with Matt Wallner and Southern Miss. Wallner was originally committed to North Dakota and head coach Jeff Dodson, but when that program folded, he was in need of a new landing spot.
The imposing outfielder and right-handed pitcher from Minnesota found a home in Hattiesburg, and quickly emerged as one of the most imposing power hitters in the country. He hit .336/.463/.655 with 14 doubles, 19 home runs, and 63 RBI.
As if that weren’t enough, he also immediately became a reliable relief arm for the Golden Eagles. In 14.2 innings over nine appearances, he had a 1.84 ERA, 15 strikeouts, three saves, and a .157 opponent batting average, all the while flashing a fastball in the high-90s, before he was shut down from a pitching standpoint thanks to a sore hip over the last two months of the season.
Wallner is going to be a huge piece of the puzzle for USM in 2018, and it should be fun to see what he has in store for his encore as a sophomore.