OXFORD – Twenty-two hits, 21 runs, 11 home runs, three starting pitchers making relief appearances, three rain delays, and two in-state rivals battling for a spot in the Super Regionals. The Oxford Regional championship was as exciting as college baseball can get; unfortunately, Southern Miss was on the losing end as Ole Miss held off the Golden Eagles for a 12-9 win on Monday.
Despite the crazy offensive numbers, Ole Miss’ early 9-0 lead was too much for Southern Miss to come back on.
Starting pitcher Ben Ethridge struggled at the start of the game as he gave up two, two-run home runs to give Old Miss a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Following Ethridge was Ramsey, who put a runner on second base with one before a 35-minute lightning day stopped the game. Ramsey stayed on the mound but walked the bases loaded. Just Storm then came in relief but gave up an RBI single and then a grand slam to the Regional’s MVP Tim Elko.
Luckily, Southern Miss’ bats stayed hot with Reed Trimble, who finished 3-for-4 with four RBI, as he jolted the offense with a two-run home run in the third inning, which was the onset of the two teams trading blows.
On the mound, the Golden Eagles turned to normal starters, Hunter Stanley and Walker Powell. Stanley threw three innings and allowed three runs off three hits while Powell completed the game as he struck out three batters and walked.
Yet, the Rebels responded with Elko hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning to extend Ole Miss’ lead to 10-1.
Southern Miss answered in the fifth with five runs, which were all scored from home runs by Blake Johnson, Reece Ewing and Trimble to cut the lead to 10-7.
Ole Miss’ bats maintained the Rebels’ cushion with a two-run home run to extend the lead to 12-7.
Southern Miss’ lone chance to tie the game came in the sixth inning as the Golden Eagles loaded the bases with two outs. Pinch hitter Slade Wilks step to the plate, but Ole Miss turned to ace Doug Nikhazy, who had struck out 16 batters and thrown over 100 pitches just two days earlier. Nikhazy made quick work of the freshman with him going down swinging on three pitches.
The Golden Eagles added two more runs in the seventh inning, from back-to-back solo home runs by Danny Lynch and Will McGillis, which led to Nikhazy leaving the game. The Rebels switched to closer Taylor Broadway, who kept Southern Miss scoreless and sealed Ole Miss’ win.
For the fifth straight season, Southern Miss reached the NCAA tournament and recorded a 40-win season.
Southern Miss also had six Golden Eagles make the All-Regional team, including Christopher Sargent, Gabe Montenegro, Johnson, Lynch, McGillis, and Trimble.
A large part of the season’s success was rooted in Southern Miss’ pitching staff, which led the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 4.28 and led C-USA with a 3.59 ERA.
Powell earned C-USA Pitcher of the Year, with Stanley and Ethridge earning first and second-team honors, respectively.
Another key part of the year’s success was Southern Miss turning around its hitting. After hitting .208 in the first 19 games of the season, the Golden Eagles hit .297. USM hit 16 home runs in the Oxford Regional alone, finishing the year with 83, and batted .332.
For the last six weeks of the year, the Golden Eagles were ranked in the top 25 in numerous college baseball polls.
Southern Miss graduates just two starters with Stanley and Powell, along with Sean Tweedy and Cody Carroll. The Golden Eagle lineup also does not feature any seniors and primarily consisted of six sophomores.
Southern Miss will have eight new players in the program next year, with all of them being out of high school.
Despite the large return of players, the MLB draft could swipe several key returning players, including Trimble and relief pitcher Ryan Och.