Southern Miss beats Auburn to stay alive in NCAA regional

Published 6:24 pm Saturday, June 3, 2023

AUBURN, Ala. — Golden Eagle was better than War Eagle.

Southern Miss hit four home runs, including two by Dustin Dickerson, and the Golden Eagles beat Auburn 7-2 in an elimination game in the NCAA Tournament’s Auburn Regional on Saturday.

“Today I thought we saw a combination of everything that we needed to win against Auburn,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “Very proud of the way our guys competed and the sense of urgency knowing our backs were against the wall.”

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Penn defeated Samford 5-4 in a winners’ bracket game Saturday night. Southern Miss faces Samford Sunday at 2 p.m., and if it wins will take on Penn at 8 p.m. The Golden Eagles (42-18) would also need to win another game against Penn on Monday to take the regional title.

“Now you literally have to take it one game at a time. That’s been the focus all year long, whether it’s the first game of the year back in February or where we are now,” Berry said. “On June 4 will be a one-game approach. We have to win that one to move on. We’ll do whatever we need to to do that. There’s really no other approach than that.”

The Golden Eagles’ pitching staff is set up as well as it can be at this point to do it. After Tanner Hall threw nine innings in a loss to Samford on Friday, Billy Oldham and Will Armistead carried the team through Saturday’s victory.

Oldham pitched 5 2/3 innings and did not allow a run until the sixth. He only struck out one batter — largely a function of getting outs and contact early in the count — walked two and allowed four hits.

Armistead pitched the final 3 1/3 innings. He gave up five hits and two walks, but no runs. One of the hits he allowed, a single to Cooper McMurray, allowed an inherited runner to score in the sixth inning.

“It’s way easier to pitch with a lead,” Oldham said. “Doing that in the first inning, we knew we had our backs against the wall, it puts the team not at ease but it makes me know I can go out there and attack guys.”

Oldham and Armistead were helped by pitching with a big lead the entire game. Christopher Sargent lifted a home run just over the right field wall in the top of the first inning to give Southern Miss a 3-0 lead.

Dickerson hit solo homers in the third and fifth innings, and Danny Lynch added another in the eighth. Rodrigo Montenegro also hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.

Dickerson finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs, and Lynch was 2-for-3 with one RBI and two runs scored.

“I think Sarge led us off great in the first inning with the three-run home run. It gave us a lot of momentum,” Dickerson said. “And I put two good swings on fastballs and they went over the fence. I give a lot of credit to Sarge for getting us going and giving us a lot of momentum.”

Auburn (34-23-1) was the No. 13 national seed, but went 0-2 at its home regional. The Tigers lost in extra innings to Penn on Friday and never quite clicked in Saturday’s elimination game.

Auburn had won 14 of starting pitcher Tommy Vail’s 16 starts, but the left-hander was done after 4 1/3 innings against Southern Miss. He allowed four hits and two walks, and five runs. Relievers Konner Copeland and Chase Isbell each allowed one run.

The Tigers’ batters put the ball in play on the first or second pitch in 15 of their 36 at-bats. Nine of those resulted in outs.

“It’s all attacking guys, keeping the walks low. That’s what gets the job done most of the time,” Oldham said. “Today we were throwing inside fastballs and they were hitting them pretty softly early. That’s what got me through so many innings with so few pitches.”

Auburn Regional
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 7, Auburn 2, Auburn eliminated
Game 4 – Penn 5, Samford 4
Sunday, June 4
Game 5 – Southern Miss vs. Samford, 2 p.m.
Game 6 – Penn vs. Winner Game 5, 8 p.m.
Monday, June 5
Game 7 – Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, TBD (if necessary)