/Don’t look now, but Eagles’ ‘Big Un’ has heated up

Don’t look now, but Eagles’ ‘Big Un’ has heated up

Wallner was the must-see MLB prospect. But then he began to miss. It’s swing and miss. He was hitting.233 through 12 games of his junior year. He was hitting.253 in 22 games with only three home runs. He had only seven home runs through 34 games. This is not bad for a college hitter. But Wallner was anything but normal during his first two USM seasons. Wallner isn’t normal anymore, you can guess the result. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder Wallner hit two home runs Wednesday night to lift Southern Miss to a crucial 5-3 win over Ole Miss. This was in front of a passionate crowd of 5,202, which is the fifth largest Pete Taylor Park crowd. But that’s not all. Wallner leapt and jumped high above the right-field wall in the second inning to steal Rebel Cole Zabowski’s two-run homer. Wallner then hit an opposite-field home run against Ole Miss pitcher Zack Phillips in the bottom of the eighth to give the Eagles the lead of 1-0. He had just begun, and that was two runs saved and one run produced in the second inning. He singled in the fourth inning and stole second base. The Eagles then took a 3-1 lead thanks to Hunter LeBlanc’s RBI double. In the eighth inning, he hit another solo homerun. This is what you need to know: He has now reached seven home runs in his last nine games after hitting seven in his first 34 games. Wallner has now hit 10 in his 18 last at-bats and Scott Berry, Southern Miss coach, stated that even with the outs he made, he is hitting the ball hard. But, Wednesday night, none of that was the most important. Wallner stated, “I am a junior and this defeat is our first ever against Ole Miss.” It’s always great to play these guys. They have my respect, but it’s great to finally be on winning side.” Ole Miss has won five consecutive series titles, including a 11-2 win over the Eagles at Trustmark Park, Pearl earlier this year. Wallner has been Wallner’s friend for most of that time. Mike Bianco, Ole Miss coach, said, “Hey, that’s Wallner. We know how great he is. He is one of the top players in the country, and has been for the past two seasons. He hit a 3-2 home run tonight. He made good pitches. They have a great lineup. You have a guy like Wallner who bats fifth in the order. This tells you something. Wallner didn’t start the season batting fifth. Wallner was moved from third to fourth because he wasn’t hitting well and other players were. Southern Miss is a different team when Wallner hits like he does now. Wallner’s current run has seen the Golden Eagles win nine consecutive games and 10 of their 11 previous games. Wallner stated, “I wish” that he had the mentality he has now on February 15. He replied, “Baseball can be a streaky sport.” “Confidence and trust are key.” Berry believes Wallner tried to do too many things early in the season. When he failed to get results, he began pressing. Berry stated, “It doesn’t matter who you are or how talented you are, it can happen.” He was the focus of all the national attention. It’s hard to keep up with the pressure, and sometimes it leads you backwards. It doesn’t surprise that he does what he is doing right now. He is such a humble man and a great player. He can see the ball very well. He’s not missing.” Despite Wallner’s heroics the Golden Eagles tied the game at 3-3. Relief pitcher J.C. Keys from Oak Grove became the Eagles’ seventh pitcher with one out in seventh. Keys was just as adept at the plate as Wallner. Keys was a beast. Keys dominated the Rebels for 2.2 innings. He struck out six and allowed no hits. Unlike Wallner, Keys had beaten Ole Miss before. He scored the winning run in an Eagle win over the Rebels as a freshman, while also playing in outfield. Keys grinned, “Seems like it was a long, long while ago.”