Rain caused delays for several portions of the Hattiesburg Regional, as it caused Saturday’s games to be moved to Sunday. But this was the case with several regionals, as rain held up play across the country.
Even with the delays because of the weather, things looked good for host the University of Southern Mississippi, but the Golden Eagles struggled in the opening game against the University of Illinois-Chicago.
USM found itself down five runs to the Flames at one point before mounting a comeback for an 8-7 win.
Southern Miss fell behind in its second game to the University of South Alabama before rallying to win 8-3 to advance to the regional championship.
The Golden Eagles were sitting pretty knowing that any team they faced would have to defeat them twice to reach a Super Regional. That team would even have to beat the host twice in the same day due to the weather.
Mississippi State University didn’t have the same smooth journey as the Golden Eagles. The Bulldogs lost their opening game of the regional 6-3 to South Alabama after the Jaguars jumped out to an early lead and never let MSU get in the game.
MSU faced UIC in the first elimination game of the regional. The Bulldogs held on for a 5-4 win after the Flames loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but UIC couldn’t get the game-tying run home.
South Alabama and MSU meet again in an elimination game for the right to face the Golden Eagles for the regional title. The Bulldogs used a five-run third inning to put the Jaguars away in the 7-3 win.
That left Mississippi State and Southern Miss still standing to play for the regional title on Monday. USM needed just one win to advance to a Super Regional, and MSU had to win twice to advance.
Rain delayed what was supposed to be an early afternoon game to an early evening game. The delay meant that if the Bulldogs won, they would have little time to recover before having to play the second game.
Another five-run third inning boosted the Bulldogs to victory, as MSU took down Southern Miss 8-1 in the first game. That set up a winner-take-all second game that came shortly behind the first one.
Southern Miss came out on fire, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning after MSU posted a run in the top of the inning. USM took a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, but the Bulldogs answered with three runs in the top of the fifth.
The Golden Eagles added a run in the bottom of the fifth, going up 6-4 after five innings played. MSU kept charging back, adding a run in the top of the seventh and two runs in the top of the eighth, which caused them to take a 7-6 lead.
Mississippi State added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, going 8-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Southern Miss coach Scott Berry got ejected for arguing calls in the final inning, and USM committed its third error of the game in the ninth.
The team couldn’t mount any offense in the bottom of the ninth as the Bulldogs rallied for the 8-6 win.
Southern Miss won 50 games in the season but couldn’t win when it need to win the most for the second straight weekend.
The Golden Eagles reached the title game of the Conference USA Baseball Tournament but couldn’t put away Rice University in the championship game. Then the team got two chances to put away the Bulldogs but couldn’t hold on yet again.
The regional collapse could haunt USM for a long time. This team was on the verge of being a national seed and then couldn’t put away an in-state rival with two chances to get the job done.
Mississippi State left no room for error after losing to USA in the regional opening, but the team bounced back as it has done nearly all season. The Bulldogs won four games in two days and reached a Super Regional.
Next up for MSU is a trip to Baton Rouge to face Louisiana State University in the Super Regional. The Tigers had little trouble winning their regional, as they won all three games by an average of six runs per game.
LSU even swept the Bulldogs in the final series of the regular season for both teams. The two SEC foes will battle in a best-of-three series from June 10 to June 12.
That doesn’t matter today for MSU. The Bulldogs earned the right to enjoy their victory and rest their weary legs and arms before this weekend.