Tigers season ends at Regional

Southern Miss upsets Auburn 7-2 in Auburn Regional
The Auburn Tigers lose to Southern Miss 7-2 in the NCAA Baseball regional Saturday June 3, 2023
The Auburn Tigers lose to Southern Miss 7-2 in the NCAA Baseball regional Saturday June 3, 2023(Auburn Athletics)
Published: Jun. 3, 2023 at 10:46 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Southern Miss hit four home runs to beat No. 13 Auburn 7-2 Saturday, ending the Tigers’ season in the NCAA Auburn Regional at sold-out Plainsman Park.

“The responsibility lies on me,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “Our team made a good run. This group put us in position after a really tough start and stayed in the fight the entire season to get us to this point to host a regional. We didn’t link it up enough in these two days to have success against two really good opponents.”

Both teams had nine hits but all of Auburn’s were singles while the Golden Eagles’ four extra-base hits yielded 16 total bases and six runs.

Southern Miss capitalized on a leadoff error and a walk to take a 3-0 lead on Christopher Sargent’s three-run home run in the top of the first inning.

Dustin Dickerson led off the third inning with a solo homer over the green monster to give the Golden Eagles a 4-0 lead.

Dickerson homered again near the same spot in his next at-bat, putting Southern Miss on top 5-0 and ending the outing of Auburn starting pitcher Tommy Vail (5-2), who struck out four and allowed four earned runs in 4.1 innings.

“He’s a fighter for us,” Thompson said of Vail. “We would not have been able to be here without Tommy Vail.”

Konner Copeland relieved Vail, exiting in the sixth when USM loaded the bases with three straight one-out singles. The Golden Eagles extended their lead to 6-0 on a sacrifice fly off Chase Isbell, who worked the final 3.2 innings, striking out four while allowing one run.

After totaling four singles in Friday’s 11-inning loss to Penn, Auburn managed nine more Saturday, ending the regional without an extra-base hit.

“We pride ourselves on getting timely hits the past month or so,” Bryson Ware said. “The past few games, for whatever reason, it hasn’t been falling our way. Hats off to Southern Miss, they played a great game. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this team.”

Southern Miss starting pitcher Billy Oldham (7-3) shut out Auburn for five innings, departing after allowing Auburn’s first run in the sixth.

Trailing 6-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Ware drew a walk to start a two-out rally. Three consecutive singles by Cole Foster, Chris Stanfield and Cooper McMurray scored two runs for the home team.

Nate LaRue and Ike Irish singled in the seventh but a strikeout ended the inning. Auburn stranded two more runners in both the eighth and ninth innings, six of the 11 Tigers left on base in the game.

“I really felt like we were one or two swings away,” Thompson said. “I didn’t think our approach started getting better until the sixth inning today.”

Danny Lynch hit USM’s fourth home run, a solo shot to right with one out in the eighth, to give the Golden Eagles a five-run lead. Southern Miss advances to play Sunday against the loser of Saturday’s late game between Penn and Samford.

The 2023 Tigers (34-23-1) made program history by hosting back-to-back NCAA regionals after posting an SEC-best 12-3 record in the second half of league play to finish 17-13, Auburn’s second consecutive winning conference campaign.

“Being able to play in front of these fans is something I’ll hang my hat on for years to come,” said Ware, who set Auburn’s season record with 24 home runs. “I’m really happy that I was a part of that and could contribute. It’s a really cool memory that I’ll cherish for a really long time.”

“Amazing environment,” Thompson said of the overflow crowds that included a packed stadium parking deck and hundreds of tailgaters beyond the center field fence. “I’ve seen the growth where people are interested in college baseball in this community and this university.”

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