Southern Miss beats Penn, advances to NCAA super regional

Published 8:07 pm Monday, June 5, 2023

AUBURN, Ala. — When their backs were against the wall, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles turned in an absolutely super performance.

Dustin Dickerson hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the sixth inning, Will Armistead pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, and Southern Miss beat Penn 11-7 on Monday to win the NCAA Tournament’s Auburn Regional.

Southern Miss (45-18) won four consecutive elimination games — and eliminated all three regional opponents in the process — to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s super regional round for the second year in a row.

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“We had to do it the hard way. Just like last year we got in the losers’ bracket and had to find out who we were. I couldn’t be more proud of our team and how they stayed the course,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “We stayed resilient, we brought it back to the middle of the ring, and we were able to get the final blow late in the game.”

The Golden Eagles will host Tennessee in a best-of-three series beginning Saturday at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg. Game 1 is Saturday at 2 p.m., and will be televised on ESPNU.

“We won one (regional) last year and it was special, and this one’s special as well,” Dickerson said. “But we know there’s more work to be done. We want two more games to go to Omaha and win that whole thing.”

Southern Miss lost its regional opener against Samford, then rallied to beat Auburn, Samford and Penn twice to advance. The Golden Eagles scored 31 runs in their last three games, and needed a big offensive day to get over the final hurdle against Penn on Monday.

Penn jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning as Jarrett Pokrovsky and Ryan Taylor hit back-to-back RBI doubles.

Southern Miss erased that deficit with four runs in the bottom of the fourth. RBI singles by Nick Monistere, Rodrigo Montenegro and finally Dickerson tied it.

Then, in the sixth, Dickerson blasted his fourth home run of the regional high over the tall left field wall at Auburn’s Plainsman Park to put the Golden Eagles ahead 8-5.

Dickerson was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player. He batted .381 (8-for-21) in five games, with the four homers, five runs scored and 11 RBIs. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

“I’m looking for a pitch to drive, and I’m putting a good swing on it and it’s going over the fence,” Dickerson said of his hot streak. “I’m just taking the same swing I’ve been taking and luckily they’re going over the fence.”

Southern Miss tacked on three big insurance runs in the eighth inning — two of them scored on a two-out double by Carson Paetow — to make it 11-7 after Penn had gotten back within a single run.

Armistead worked out of a jam after entering the game in the seventh inning and retired eight of the nine batters he faced to earn his second save of the weekend.

Armistead allowed one hit and no walks in 2 2/3 innings, and had five strikeouts. He was one of three pitchers Southern Miss used on Monday, along with Tanner Hall and Billy Oldham, who pitched earlier in the regional.

Oldham (8-3) got the win with two innings of scoreless relief after he’d thrown 81 pitches in 5 2/3 innings against Auburn on Saturday.

Armistead pitched 3 1/3 innings vs. Auburn. He has allowed two runs over his last 17 2/3 innings, a span that covers five games.

“Everybody’s arm hurts. Everybody’s tired. Everybody’s hungry and feels terrible. But so what?” Armistead said. “You’ve got a job to do, and as a player that job is to leave everything on the line for your team. I think that our pitching staff did that this weekend.”