Indiana pounds Southern Miss in regional opener

Published 5:05 pm Friday, May 31, 2024

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One way or another, figuratively or literally, it’s going to be a long weekend for Southern Miss.
Indiana scored five runs in the first two innings, and pitcher Ty Bothwell did not allow a run until the sixth as the Hoosiers routed Southern Miss 10-4 on Friday in the opening game of the NCAA basebal tournament’s Knoxville Regional.

Brock Tibbitts was 3-for-5 with four RBIs for Indiana (33-24-1). He hit a two-run home run in the first inning, and a two-run double in the fourth.

“They came out swinging the bats really aggressive. We never could really get control of that box,” Southern Miss coach Christian Ostrander said. “They made it really tough on our starter Billy (Oldham), and their pitcher was really good. We didn’t have much of an answer there with him. It is what it is. When you get down to a dangerous offensive team like that, you have to scratch and claw to get back and we just couldn’t do enough today.”

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Morgan Colopy was 2-for-5 with three RBIs, and also doubled and homered for Indiana. His two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning sealed the game after Southern Miss had finally shown some signs of life.

Indiana padded its lead to 8-0 through five innings. Nick Monistere hit a two-run home run in the sixth and another run scored on an error as Southern Miss cut it to 8-3, but it didn’t get another run.

Indiana reliever Drew Buhr retired eight consecutive batters heading into the ninth inning. Southern Miss got three hits in the ninth inning, including a two-out RBI double by Davis Gillespie, before Buhr struck out Monistere to end the game.

Southern Miss left runners on base in five of the first six innings, and left the bases loaded in the sixth. It stranded 10 runners total.

“We did a decent job getting runners on base. We just were lacking the big hits in moments,” said Southern Miss right fielder Slade Wilks, who was 2-for-5 and scored a run. “We left runners on when we were a few big hits away from getting back in that ballgame and that was kind of the difference.”

Indiana advanced to the winners’ bracket and will face No. 1 overall seed and regional host Tennessee Saturday at 5 p.m.

Tennessee beat Northern Kentucky 9-3 on Friday night.

Southern Miss (41-19) fell into the losers’ bracket and will have to win four consecutive elimination games to reach the super regional round for the third year in a row. The Golden Eagles will play Northern Kentucky Saturday at 11 a.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

“We’ve got to win to keep our season going,” Ostrander said. “There’s some peace with that. It’s some simplicity with that, that we’re excited about getting to play the next game of the year.”

Southern Miss lost its regional opener last year before coming all the way back to win it. In 2022, they won three elimination games to advance to the super regional. They went through SEC foes LSU and Auburn to do it, as well, just as they’ll likely have to beat Tennessee this time.

“It’s a fight every single pitch,” Wilks said. “You can’t take one pitch off when your back’s against the wall like we are now. It’s a war. That’s plain and simple.”