HATTIESBURG, Mississippi – The LSU baseball team’s late inning magic struck out Sunday night in an 8-4 loss at No. 1 seed Southern Mississippi before 5,179 at Pete Taylor Park.
But the Tigers can still join as many as seven other SEC teams in NCAA Super Regional round play this coming weekend with a win over USM Monday afternoon at Pete Taylor Park (4 p.m. eastern, ESPNU). The record for most teams in Super Regional play set by the SEC is six.
“We’ve answered the bell after failure before and done very well,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said. “So, it’s not anything that’s uncommon. I want our guys to be themselves and play in character.”
No. 1 overall seed Tennessee and No. 5 overall seed Texas A&M have already advanced to the best-of-three Super Regional round with with ninth inning drama on Sunday.
The Volunteers trailed 4-3 entering the ninth inning, but scored six runs, then held on for a 9-6 victory and will host Notre Dame for the right to reach the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, for the second straight season.
Texas A&M trailed coach Jim Schlossnagle’s old school, TCU, 9-8, and scored seven runs in the ninth for a 15-9 win and will host Monday’s Louisville-Michigan winner in one of eight Super Regionals next weekend.
Host Auburn needs to just finish off UCLA at home to reach a Super Regional. The Tigers led 9-0 in the sixth inning Sunday before a rain suspension. That game will be picked up at 3 p.m. Monday.
An Auburn win means it will play the winner of the Vanderbilt-Oregon State game set for 4 p.m. Monday on the SEC Network from Corvallis, Oregon. Vanderbilt beat No. 1 seed and host Oregon State, 8-1, Sunday to force the winner-take-all game Monday.
LSU, which won 14-11 with a 10-run eighth inning Friday to beat Kennesaw State and beat USM 7-6 on Saturday in 10 innings after a four-run rally in the ninth, put two runners on in the ninth inning Sunday with two outs. But the rally ended there.
“I was always confident we could come back,” said LSU’s Cade Doughty, who grounded out to second base to end the game. His two-run home run cut Southern Mississippi’s lead to 6-5 in the ninth on Saturday. He hit his 14th home run of the season – a two-run shot to give LSU a 2-0 lead in the first inning Sunday and put the Tigers up 3-2 in the third on an RBI single.
“I was just confident in our guys,” Doughty said. “Just didn’t get it done this time.”
The No. 2 seed Tigers play No. 1 seed USM for the NCAA Hattiesburg Regional title Monday as well as the host site in the Super Regional. The Hattiesburg Regional is paired with the Coral Gables, Florida, Regional, and since No. 1 and host seed Miami was eliminated Sunday, 4-3, by Arizona, LSU or USM will host the Super Regional round.
No. 3 seed Ole Miss and No. 2 seed Arizona play at 1 p.m. Monday on ESPN +. The Rebels, who defeated Miami and Arizona in the opening rounds, will advance with a win. If Arizona wins, a second game will follow Monday. LSU and Southern Mississippi are each better overall seeds than Ole Miss and Arizona, which is why the LSU-USM winner hosts the Super Regional. Southern Miss. has never hosted a Super Regional.
Other SEC teams with a chance to advance to the Super Regional round include Florida and Arkansas.
Florida beat Oklahoma, 7-2, Sunday to force a winner-take-all meeting at 1 p.m. Monday on ESPNU.
Arkansas lost, 14-10, to No. 1 seed and host Oklahoma State on Sunday night and will play Oklahoma State again Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 with a Super Regional spot on the line.
Of the nine SEC teams that received NCAA Regional bids, only Georgia has been eliminated as it fell to No. 1 seed and host North Carolina, 6-5, on Sunday. Eight or seven SEC teams in Super Regional play would break the national record of six first set in 2004 by the SEC and again in 2017, ’18, ’19 and ’21.
The SEC also stands a chance of breaking its national record for most teams in the College World Series, which was four in 1997 and in 2019.
LSU took a 4-2 lead over USM in the third on a passed ball. But the Golden Eagles tied it 4-4 in the home third on RBI singles by Slade Wilks and Danny Lynch. They scored three to go ahead to stay at 7-4 in the sixth on an RBI single by Dustin Dickerson and two other runs on a wild pitch and a balk by LSU reliever Eric Reyzelman.
Carson Paetow hit his 15th home run of the season off Blake Money, who was LSU’s last pitcher, for the 8-4 lead in the eighth.
Neither team has much pitching left. LSU used six, while USM used four. Five LSU relievers allowed five earned runs on six hits and five walks after starter Samuel Dutton gave up five hits and three earned runs in two and a third innings. Riley Cooper (4-3) walked two and allowed two hits and an earned run in taking the loss.
Johnson was asked if his team missed an opportunity to advance.
“The opportunity is to win three before you lose two,” said Johnson, who took Arizona to the College World Series last year before taking the LSU job. “That’s in front of us.”
USM sophomore lefty reliever Justin Storm (3-0) got the win by holding LSU’s hot bats to two hits and no runs over the last five innings after throwing just nine and two thirds innings all season. He struck out seven with one walk against an LSU team that had scored 21 runs on 24 hits over its two previous games.
“Had some deception, got us out of our plan. We swung at too many balls,” a disgusted Johnson said.
“That’s big boy baseball out there. I’m just excited,” Storm said.
“We were able to answer everything that LSU threw at us,” USM coach Scott Berry said.
And that was after USM beat Kennesaw State, 4-3, in 10 innings in an elimination game Sunday afternoon.
“In those moments and on this stage, that’s what these kids dream about,” Berry said. “When I was young, that’s what I dreamed about before these huge crowds.”
LSU and USM drew more than 5,000 on Saturday and Sunday night.
“I’ve been here 22 years, and I haven’t seen back-to-back crowds like we’ve seen here the last two nights,” Berry said. “The atmosphere, the adrenaline that runs through your body when it gets going, I mean that charges you up.”
Monday’s game is not expected to draw as many to start as it is at 3 p.m. local time.
“Maybe a lot of our fans will leave work early,” Berry said.