Southern Miss hosting Ole Miss in highly anticipated NCAA Baseball Super Regional

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

For the first time in school history, an NCAA Super Regional is coming to Hattiesburg and the friendly confines of Pete Taylor Park.

In a three-game series that will have the eyes of the state and much of the college baseball world upon it, the University of Southern Mississippi is set to host the University of Mississippi with a trip to the upcoming College World Series on the line.

First pitch of game one is scheduled for Saturday, June 11 at 3 p.m. in Hattiesburg. The second game of the series will take place on Sunday, June 12 at 3 p.m.

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If a third game is needed, it will be played on Monday at a time to be determined later.

The paring of Southern Miss and Ole Miss is one that’s chock-full of storylines and intrigue.

Ole Miss was one of the final four teams to get into the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid. The Rebels (35-22) were sent to a regional hosted by the University of Miami and were seeded no.3 in that four-team field.

The Rebs beat the University of Arizona 7-4 in a game that was delayed until Saturday by wet weather. Ole Miss then stayed on the winners’ bracket side of play by beating national no. 6 seeded Miami 2-1 on Sunday.

On Monday, needing to beat the only other remaining team in the field — Arizona — once to move on, the Ole Miss offense erupted in a burst of scoring that had the final score looking like a football final as they moved on with a 22-6 hammering of the Wildcats from Tucson.

Senior captain Tim Elko set the tone with three-home runs in the win on Monday. A 6-foot-4, 240-pound native of Lutz, Florida, Elko was named Region MVP after finishing the three-game set with a .778 batting average, three doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs.

Elko now has 22 homeruns on the season, an Ole Miss team record.

After a disappointing regular season where Ole Miss began the season with great expectations and lofty rankings, the chatter has been that coach Mike Bianco may be done in Oxford after leading the baseball program for the last 21 seasons.

Bianco and his staff now find themselves two wins away from making the second College World Series trip in school history.

The Rebels and Golden Eagles met in Pearl back on April 5 and Southern Miss escaped with a 10-7 win that night.

Ole Miss then got a measure of revenge on May 11 when they went to Hattiesburg and took a 4-1 win in Taylor Park over the Eagles.

That loss to Ole Miss came during a portion of the season when Southern Miss had begun to struggle with some injuries on its roster. It took extra innings for the Eagles to salvage one win in a near sweep against Old Dominion in their Conference USA series prior to playing OM.

Southern Miss coach Scott Berry saw his team respond late though as they won two out of three in a series at the University of Texas-San Antonio and then swept three games in blow-out fashion at Middle Tennessee State to lock up the Conference USA regular season title.

The Eagles hosted their league tourney in Hattiesburg but went 2-2 in that event and saw their rivals from Louisiana Tech capture tournament gold on their home field.

It was a pleasant surprise when the NCAA selection committee looked at the overall body of work by Southern Miss (47-17) during the season and still saw fit to make the Eagles a no. 11 national seed and awarded them the right to host a regional.

Berry’s team beat Army 2-0 in the first game of the regional on Friday and then faced LSU in a huge winner’s bracket matchup.

It looked like Southern Miss had a win sewed up in that one, before LSU scored four times in the ninth to tie the score and then got a game-winning run in the 10th inning for a 7-6 victory.

To keep its season alive, the Eagles needed to win two games on Sunday, a task that Berry told the press would involve, “having to call on some players to do things they haven’t been asked to do before.”

It took 10 innings in the first game on Sunday to put away Kennesaw State 4-3 and set up another matchup with LSU that followed immediately after the win over KSU.

Playing in fierce heat on the broiling turf of Pete Taylor Park, the Eagles put away LSU 8-4 in the nightcap to set up the winner-take-all matchup on Monday.

Playing in front a packed crowd that had Southern Miss fans wearing black and gold and LSU fans adorned in purple in gold, the teams battled in four-hour slugfest that wasn’t decided until the final inning on Monday.

LSU led 3-1 after the first inning and 4-3 after six complete. Southern Miss took the lead back in the top half of the seventh to lead 7-4, but LSU quickly cut the lead to one run in the bottom half of that frame and then tied the game at 7-7 in the bottom of the eighth.

Junior Christopher Sargent, named MVP of the Region, got the Eagles going in the top of the ninth inning with a leadoff single.

Sargent moved to third on a single by Slade Wilks and then scored what would be the game winning run-on sacrifice fly by Danny Lynch.

The celebration was euphoric as the Southern Miss players dogpiled in the infield and then later scaled the outfield wall to celebrate with fans in the “Right Field Roost” after staving off elimination with three straight wins.

Don’t have a ticket to the Super Regional yet? Expect seats to be pricey, with tickets on the secondary market for the opener on Saturday listed between $350-$500 dollars apiece at press time.