Southern Miss ended its 2016 season in a 7-5 decision against South Alabama on Sunday in the Tallahassee Regional. The Golden Eagles finished their season with a 41-20 record and making their first NCAA Regional appearance since 2011.
“It went downhill quickly,” said outfielder Jake Sandlin. “One thing just kind of led to the other and it wasn’t in our favor.”
The Golden Eagles came into this contest after capturing a 14-2 decision against the Jaguars on June 3. USM captured the win on an 11-run, eight-hit sixth inning in their first win of the Tallahassee Regional. After losing to Florida State in their next game in the tournament, USM needed their second game in three days against USA to stay alive in the tournament.
Southern Miss got on the board in the first inning on a Jake Sandlin home run to put the Golden Eagles up 1-0 early.
In the second inning with runners on first and second, Nick Dawson singled up the middle to bring Tracy Hadley home giving Southern Miss a 2-0 lead. The third inning also saw the Golden Eagles add a run to the scoreboard, 3-0.
By the fifth inning, rain was steadily pouring into Dick Howser Stadium with a rain delay coming in at any moment. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, the delay was called just as Southern Miss had a bases loaded situation with no outs.
“We had a chance to really put them away,” said first baseman Tim Lynch on the situation his team was in before the rain delay.
The delay lasted for two hours. When both teams came back from the intermission, the momentum was in the air. Southern Miss scored one run in the fifth to make the game 4-0, but the lead was not safe.
“I think the momentum was stalled when the rain delay happened,” said Golden Eagle coach Scott Berry. “For us only to get one run out of that [situation], that swung the momentum back to South Alabama.”
South Alabama would go into the bottom of the sixth inning with no runs on the board, but they were able to get six runs off of four hits in just the sixth alone.
Just a day earlier, Southern Miss used the sixth frame to put up 11 runs of their own. On this day, they were on the other end of an offensive explosion.
“It’s ironic that it was the sixth inning,” said Jaguar coach Mark Calvi. “I wish we would have scored as many as they did, I would have felt a little bit better going into that last inning. But, I just think it was circumstance.”
Additionally, Berry sent three pitchers to the mound in that inning. With USM playing their fifth game in eight days, the bullpen would be put on notice if it did not produce. Against USA, fatigue set in and proved to be the crucial factor in the contest.
“No doubt,” Berry said emphasizing the lack of quality pitching he had left. “We were running thin there [in the bullpen].”
In total, Southern Miss used six pitchers on the day. The offense carried the team for the majority of the game, but combined with the rain delay and a huge sixth inning from South Alabama, the Golden Eagles just could not preserve the lead they built early.
Both teams would add one run apiece after the sixth, but South Alabama would hold on for the victory and eliminate Southern Miss from the Tallahassee Regional and end the Golden Eagles’ season.
“Really proud of our guys’ effort against a very good Southern Miss team [who] had their way with us [the other day] and was having a way with us at the start of this game,” Calvi said. “I don’t know if the rain delay did anything or not. I thought our guys were the same.”
Southern Miss finished its 2016 season with a 41-20 record including a 20-10 conference record. Also, the Golden Eagles went to an NCAA Regional for the first time since 2011.