Ostrander takes reins of Southern Miss’ baseball program

Published 4:00 am Friday, June 30, 2023

Scott Berry’s last official day as Southern Miss’ baseball head coach is Friday, but the program has spent the entire week forging ahead into its next era.

Pitching coach Christian Ostrander, who was named as Berry’s replacement in May, was formally introduced as head coach on Tuesday. And on Thursday, the rest of the 2024 coaching staff was announced.

Keller Bradford, Ladd Rhodes, Travis Creel and Ben Brewer will be Ostrander’s assistants next season. Carly Mauldin will serve as the Director of Operations.

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“It means everything. This program is such a strong national brand, and to get the opportunity to lead a program like that is very special,” Ostrander said at Tuesday’s press conference in Hattiesburg. “Then you top it off with I’ve been here six years and I’m very invested in it. My relationship with Coach Berry, and the trust they have in me to be the next guy means the world to me.”

Ostrander’s formal introduction was delayed until after the Golden Eagles’ season was over, but the hire was official on May 21. Southern Miss director of athletics Jeremy McClain said the decision was made months before even that announcement was made.

McClain said Berry told him last summer of his plan to retire at the end of the 2023 season. McClain said the choice of his successor was easy and obvious. Berry had been grooming Ostrander for the role almost since the time the pitching coach was hired in 2017.

“It doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of thought that goes into that, and a lot of seriousness about the hire. But I really think it’s good fortune and a lot of calculated decisions to have the right person in the program ready to take over,” McClain said. “It’s such an advantage to continue a level of success. When we got to that point it really was pretty easy because all of the work had been done beforehand.”

Ostrander coached at Louisiana Tech, Jones College and Delta State before coming to Southern Miss. He led Jones to MACJC state championships in 2011 and 2014 as its head coach. Berry said he took notice of Ostrander during his time at Jones, and gained an even greater appreciation of him once he was on the Southern Miss staff.

“Way before the job ever came open,” Berry said when asked when he saw Ostrander as a potential successor. “I watched him at Jones, and we had some of his players. They were well-schooled on the game of baseball, highly competitive. They represented everything that you wanted as a coach to represent you as they move on to another level, and that certainly says a lot about him and how he ran things.”

Ostrander’s success with Southern Miss’ pitchers — he’s had five All-Americans and four conference pitchers of the year — made him a rising star in the coaching profession. He passed up a couple of opportunities, however, to wait for the right one with Southern Miss.

“These six years went by in a heartbeat,” he said. “I was happy. My family was happy. It’s a great place and a great program. I’m very glad that I chose patience. This is ultimately what I’ve been looking for in my career.”

One of the big reasons Ostrander was hand-picked as Berry’s successor was to avoid the need to reboot the program or make a lot of changes to a winning culture. The Golden Eagles have reached the NCAA Tournament’s super regional round two years in a row, and have been to the tournament seven consecutive times.

“A lot of times people are standing at that podium and you’ve got to change a lot to try and get back to things. But it’s kind of established and set here,” Ostrander said. “I think that’s why it is important to have the succession of people who have been here. It’s a continuation. It’s not an overhaul. It’s not a blood transfusion.”

Ostrander’s coaching staff appears to be an extension of that philosophy. All of his assistants either were already on staff, had previous ties to the school, or in the case of Lynch were on this year’s roster.
Bradford is a native of Raymond and the son of former major leaguer Chad Bradford, who was also a USM alum.

The younger Bradford will start his first year on the field after holding the role of Director of Player Development/Operations the last two seasons. His responsibilities will include assisting with pitchers and recruiting.

Rhodes returns to Southern Miss after spending the last two seasons at Nicholls State as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. He was a volunteer assistant for USM in 2020.

Rhodes will coach hitting and outfielders, and serve as the Golden Eagles’ recruiting coordinator.

Creel will return for his fifth season with the program, and Brewer for his third.

Creel will be the primary hitting coach and work with infielders and recruiting. Last season, with Creel helping to coach the hitters, the Golden Eagles hit 88 home runs and scored 458 runs. It was the most runs they’ve scored since 2018.

Brewer was a volunteer assistant last season and worked with hitters and as the first base coach. Next season he will focus on overseeing player development as well as with hitting, catchers and on-campus recruiting.

Mauldin will return to Southern Miss after serving as an assistant coach on the Gulf Coast Community College staff.

Lynch is a newcomer to the staff as a graduate assistant coach, after finishing an outstanding playing career at Southern Miss. Lynch, who played a record 268 games as a Golden Eagle, will work with hitters, infielders and on-campus recruiting.

Ostrander said Lynch’s recent playing experience will also serve a valuable role in making him “a liaison” with the current players.

“Danny is one of the most infectious people I’ve been around. His love of baseball, the way he practices from the fall of ‘18 to now, he’s going to bring that same energy as a coach,” Ostrander said. “He’s kind of the liaison, the buffer with the players and the coaches. I think it’s really valuable when you have a guy like that. He might have a different pulse on things.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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