Southern Miss stumbles against Samford in regional opener

Published 6:04 pm Friday, June 2, 2023

AUBURN, Ala. — Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall used all of his skills and a bit of magic to get out of jam after jam Friday afternoon.

He had to leave the game some time, though, and when he did Samford was ready to pounce.

Josh Rodriguez led off the top of the 10th with a home run, then Samford scored twice more in the inning and held off a rally by Southern Miss in the bottom half to win 4-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament’s Auburn Regional.

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“For nine innings it was certainly defense and pitching that carried both clubs, but in the end Samford did a little more than we did offensively to get that win,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said.

Samford (37-23) advanced to play Penn, which upset top-seeded Auburn 6-3 in 11 innings later Friday night. Southern Miss (41-18) will face Auburn in an elimination game Saturday at 2 p.m.

All of the Auburn Regional games will be streamed on ESPN+.

“The sense of urgency now is, it’s real. You either win and live to play another day or you go home for the year,” Berry said. “That was the message to them afterward. We’ve got to play better. Offensively, we didn’t get the big hit that we needed.”

Hall, the Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, was brilliant. He pitched nine innings and only allowed one run and two walks while striking out nine. He gave up eight hits, but got out of jams with three double plays.

“When a game’s like that it’s not too much of a grind. But I knew in the back of my head my pitch count was high. I have to convince myself I’m all right,” Hall said. “I treat myself just like I did in the first inning, feeling fresh and tricking my mind into thinking I’m good — and I was. But it definitely gets a little harder toward the end.”

Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, Samford’s pitchers were just as good. Starter Jacob Cravey allowed one run in six innings, and reliever Ben Petschke gave up one run over the final four innings. They combined for eight strikeouts.

The end result was a stalemate. Samford scored a run in the third inning, Southern Miss got one in the fifth, and the game went to extra innings tied 1-1.

Hall had thrown 123 pitches by that point and left the game, and Samford broke through immediately. Rodriguez homered to center field on the third pitch he saw from reliever Justin Storm to put the Bulldogs ahead 2-1.

Andrew Bennett followed with a double, and scored on another double by Garrett Staton after Niko Mazza replaced Storm. Staton later scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.

Staton finished the game 4-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and one run scored.

Southern Miss didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the 10th. It loaded the bases on a single by Reece Ewing and two walks, and got a run home on Carson Paetow’s ground out.

Petschke struck out Blake Johnson on three pitches, however, and got Matthew Etzel to hit a lazy fly ball to Rodriguez in left to close it out.

Southern Miss also left runners at second and third in the ninth inning. It left 14 runners on base.

“I thought we had great at-bats all day,” said Southern Miss shortstop Dustin Dickerson, who was 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI. “We had the bases loaded multiple innings and we didn’t get the big hit, which it happens sometimes. Hopefully we get the big hit tomorrow.”

All games streamed on ESPN+
Friday, June 2
Game 1 – Samford 4, Southern Miss 2, 10 innings
Game 2 – Penn 6, Auburn 3, 11 innings
Saturday, June 3
Game 3 – Southern Miss vs. Auburn, 2 p.m.
Game 4 – Samford vs. Penn, 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 4
Game 5 – Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 2 p.m.
Game 6 – Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 8 p.m.
Monday, June 5
Game 7 (If necessary) – Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, TBD