Slippin’ and Soddin’: Ole Miss-Southern Miss game called because of loose grass on the field

Published 11:14 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

PEARL — Bad sod brought sobs to the squads at Trustmark Park.

Tuesday’s baseball game between Southern Miss and Ole Miss was called in the bottom of the fourth inning due to unplayable field conditions. Players from both teams were slipping on the loose infield sod, which had recently been replaced in preparation for the 2023 minor league baseball season.

The Mississippi Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A affiliate, begin their season at Trustmark Park on April 7.

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“It’s a bummer. We were competing, and it’s always a good challenge to come up here and play Ole Miss or (Mississippi) State in Pearl,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “I’m disappointed for the crowds that came out, but unfortunately it just wasn’t possible tonight with the conditions.”

The Golden Eagles were ahead 2-1 when the game was called. Southern Miss’ Matthew Etzel laid down a bunt toward the third base side, and as Ole Miss pitcher Brayden Jones came off the mound to field it he slipped and fell on the grass. Jones displaced a large piece of sod in front of the pitcher’s mound as he turned and planted to move toward the ball.

The umpires halted play and conferred with both Berry and Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, then decided to end the game. It was ruled a no contest and will not be rescheduled.

Berry said some seams in the pieces of sod were visible during pregame warm-ups, but how much it would affect play did not become clear until the game got going. Several pieces had to be tamped back into place in the early innings.

“You could tell as the game went along, around first base they were blowing out over there. Blew out a little bit here at third,” said Berry, who serves as Southern Miss’ third base coach. “The last play there, when Etzel dropped the bunt, their pitcher tried to get off and field it and pushed two or three pieces of sod out. It was evident this thing could get pretty bad. We both have a lot of season left and certainly don’t need to get somebody hurt because of that.”

Southern Miss (14-9) will return to action Friday as it opens a Sun Belt Conference series at Troy. Ole Miss (15-9) will also be on the road against Southeastern Conference rival Texas A&M.

Bianco said canceling the game was “the right thing,” but did express disappointment about the premature finish.

Ole Miss will play again at Trustmark Park in the annual Governor’s Cup game against Mississippi State on April 25.

“It’s the right thing,” Bianco said. “It’s disappointing, obviously, for both teams to come all this way, to get this deep into a game, have this many fans here and not get to play. Obviously there’s a lot of disappointment around for everybody.”