C Spire Ferriss Trophy finalist Matt Wallner of Southern Miss has accepted an invitation to attend the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team training camp this summer.

Training camp invitees will compete for a spot on the final 24-man roster that will be announced July 1. Wallner, a freshman, is the lone Mississippi collegiate player who has been invited, USA Baseball spokesman Brad Young confirmed. Only college players who are not eligible to be selected in the Major League draft can play on the national team.

The 2017 Collegiate National Team camp will train at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., and compete in a series of games with teams from the Coastal Plains League from June 20-25.

The U.S. will then host international friendship series against Chinese Taipei and Cuba from June 27 – July 7, in Cary, Charlotte and Durham, N.C.

Wallner, from Forest Lake, Minn., has a .330 average with a team-best 15 homers and 49 RBI. His home run total is the most ever by a Southern Miss freshman. His home run total ranks second in Conference USA, while his slugging percentage (.659) ranks second and his on base percentage ranks fourth (.457) in the league. He also has registered a 2-0 pitching record with a 1.84 ERA and three saves in eight relief appearances, often hitting 97 mph on the radar gun. A hip injury kept him off the mound for a month.

Wallner’s team holds a 40-12 record, after clinching the 2017 Conference USA regular-season championship Sunday in an 8-0 home victory over UAB. The 40 victories is tied for the second-most for a Golden Eagle squad during the regular season.

Wallner will be the second Southern Miss player to ever don the Team USA jersey. Pitcher Tony Phillips played for the 1991 National Team that participated in the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.