Southern Miss baseball loses to LSU in NCAA regional

Southern Miss fell victim to another improbable LSU rally and dropped a heartbreaking thriller in Hattiesburg on Saturday.

The Golden Eagles watched their 6-2, ninth inning lead vanish in front of a rowdy, 5,211-person crowd at Pete Taylor Park. LSU used two home runs to force extra innings and walked it off in the bottom of the 10th to capture a 7-6 victory.

“Obviously, very disappointed in the outcome of it,” USM head coach Scott Berry said after the game. “Just couldn’t put them away there in the ninth inning. We played a really good game up to that point.”

The loss squandered a superb start from Golden Eagles starter Hurston Waldrep and a much-improved outing from the offense.

Southern Miss will now have to battle in the 1 p.m. elimination game against Kennesaw State on Sunday in hopes of forcing a doubleheader night cap against LSU.

The Tigers used a 10-run eighth inning on Friday night to upend KSU, 14-11, and set up Saturday’s contest with USM.

LSU fans cheer during Game Four of NCAA Regionals at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Hannah Ruhoff

How the rally unfolded

It began in the first two innings. Waldrep was forced to throw 51 pitches through the first six outs as the Tigers sent 13 batters to the plate across the opening frames.

It significantly stunted the lifespan of Waldrep’s outing, and he ended up leaving the game before the seventh inning was over at 119 pitches thrown.

“The best thing we did, we got (Waldrep) out of the game with enough time to do something with everybody else,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said after the game.

Dalton Rogers pitched an inning of scoreless baseball, but left the bases loaded in the eighth for Landon Harper to clean up. Harper got out of the jam with one pitch, but was not as fortunate when the ninth inning rolled around.

Southern Miss pitcher Garrett Ramsey prepares to throw a pitch against LSU in the bottom of the ninth in an attempt to win Game Four of NCAA Regionals against Southern Miss at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Hannah Ruhoff

Dylan Crews teed off a solo home run with one out to cut the lead to three. Three batters later, with a man on base and two outs on the board, Harper had Cade Doughty down to the last strike of the game. Doughty battled and then launched a two-run home run.

LSU first baseman Tre Morgan was then hit by a Harper pitch and Garrett Ramsey was called upon to relieve Harper. A stolen base and a base hit into right field ensued and the game was tied.

“We just couldn’t get the punch out,” Berry said. “There was a hit batter in there, there was walks that kind of led to things that materialized in their favor. At the end of the day, we just couldn’t put them away.”

LSU loaded the bases in the 10th inning and got a high-bouncing grounder from Josh Pearson that scored the winning run.

Hurston Waldrep throws a pitch against LSU during Game Four of NCAA Regionals at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Hannah Ruhoff

Waldrep’s world

Waldrep’s start could’ve gone a little better up front. The flamethrower immediately struggled with his command, nailing LSU leadoff batter Dylan Crews with a fastball on his first pitch.

The first inning was rocky enough for Berry to have reliever Dalton Rogers warming up before the third out was even made.

The Tigers put a run across in each of the first two innings before Waldrep fell into a groove that slowly brought the USM crowd to life.

“Outstanding outing by (Waldrep),” Berry said. “He just continued to get stronger and stronger.”

As Waldrep’s pitch count rose, his fastball and complimentary breaking ball only got stronger. He retired 12 straight LSU batters and sent the last six down via strikeout before giving up a double in the seventh to end his day.

Johnson compared Waldrep to Tennessee Volunteer All-American pitcher Chase Dollander and called Waldrep one of the two best pitchers his team has seen this season.

“It’s hard not getting nervous about games like this, but once I settled in I was able to control everything,” Waldrep said. “I had confidence on the mound, whereas earlier I was a little nervous. I had confidence late in the game.”

Hurston Waldrep celebrates after striking out an LSU player during Game Four of NCAA Regionals at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Hannah Ruhoff

Offense finally shows improvement

A day after another grinding offensive performance that mustered up just two runs against Army, the Golden Eagles lineup looked completely rejuvenated.

First baseman Christopher Sargent ran his hit streak to eight games with a three-hit, three-run performance that included his 21st home run of the year.

Christopher Sargent celebrates after scoring a home ruin during Game Four of NCAA Regionals against LSU at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Hannah Ruhoff

“Coming into the game I just wanted to see the ball up,” Sargent said. “My downfall is seeing balls down and seeing balls out of the zone, but coming into this game I just had a good plan.”

The rest of the lineup generated two more home runs, one from Will McGillis and another from Carson Paetow.

Five of the team’s six runs came with two outs, a good sign for a team that struggled heavily with plating runners in two-out situations.

“We had some really great at-bats today,” Berry said. “You start off with McGillis, the two-run homer. Then Paetow with the big solo homer… Credit our offense, they really had some nice at-bats. But at the end of the day, you got to play a balanced game.”

The winner of the early Sunday game will face LSU at 6 p.m.

This story was originally published June 5, 2022 12:48 AM.

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