OXFORD – True freshman Tanner Hall turned in a memorable performance that helped Southern Miss hold off Ole Miss for a 10-7 win on Sunday night and force-a-winner take all game in the regional championship.
After 11 runs were scored between both teams, Hall settled the Rebel offense as he struck out five batters and allowed one hit in five complete innings in relief.
"Going into it, I felt excitement if anything," Hall said. "I knew that Ole Miss was off to a pretty hot start against us. Every mistake that we made, they were getting us and making us pay for it. Offensively we were punching them right back in the mouth. I knew that when I went out there that I had to make my pitches and focus on one pitch at a time and essentially make them make their mistake and do what I need to do."
What makes Hall's outing even more remarkable is that the right-handed reliever had only pitched in 4.2 innings in all of May.
"Another star was born, and that was with Tanner Hall on the mound," Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. "He has ice water in his veins. He is very competitive. The moment does not bother him as you witnessed. In fact, I think the bigger the moment, the more he wants that baseball."
The beginning of the night looked to be quite the opposite of the game's end result. Southern Miss starting pitcher Blake Wehunt struggled in the first inning as he walked and hit four straight batters, which scored Ole Miss' first run of the game. The Rebels then cleared the bases with a 3-run double to take a 4-0 lead.
Luckily, Southern Miss' bats continued to ride the momentum from its earlier 7-4 win over Florida State and jumped out on Ole Miss starting pitcher Drew McDaniel. In the bottom half of the frame, the Golden Eagles batted around the order, put up eight of their 13 hits in the inning and scored seven runs.
Reed Trimble hit a two-run home run after Gabe Montenegro doubled. Danny Lynch and Blake Johnson then drove in two more runs. Dickerson and Trimble then capped the inning off with two more RBI singles to give Southern Miss a 7-4 lead at the end of the inning.
"We knew that it's a nine-inning game and that one inning wasn't going to kill (or) win it for us," said Trimble, who went 2-for-4 with four RBI. "We had to go out there and battle.
"We have been maturing in every at-bat and in every game. At the beginning of the year, we were pressing. We've trusted ourselves and understood that we are good enough to compete with anybody in the country and if not compete, win."
Coming in relief of Wehunt, Chandler Best and Tyler Stuart then covered the next 3.2 innings as they combined to give up six hits and allowed three runs. However, a two-run home run from Will McGillis in the second inning gave the Golden Eagles' pitching staff needed cushion.
Entering the fifth inning and holding a 9-6 lead, Hall gave the needed defensive boost and retired the first seven batters he saw.
"It was a performance by a young man who dominated a very good lineup in Ole Miss," Berry said. "His pitches, especially his two-seam, is like a bowling ball that he throws. It literally rolls off, and it's tough for hitters to barrel anything off with that."
In Hall's outing, Ole Miss managed to put only one runner in scoring position after Hall hit a batter with one out and threw two wild pitches. Despite the hiccup, Hall struck a batter out and induced a ground ball to end the threat.
The Golden Eagles tacked on the game's final run in the seventh inning after Ole Miss reliever Tyler Myers loaded the bases and hit Trimble. However, Southern Miss hit into a double play to kill the inning and missed on widening the lead. Yet, Hall didn't need the extra runs and recorded the first save of his career.
"It's all kinds of emotion going through you," said Hall, on what the emotion felt like after securing the win. "Overall, it's the most exciting feeling you can think of because not only did we just win a ball game, but we get to play another one tomorrow against the same team and with momentum on our side. That's what we want."
Southern Miss is now one win away from taking the program's second-ever super regional appearance.
First pitch between the Golden Eagles and will Ole Miss is set for 12 p.m. on Monday.