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Tigers fall to Southern Miss, season ends at NCAA regional

<p>Auburn pitching coach Daron Schoenrock (left), catcher Nate LaRue (middle) and pitcher Tommy Vail (right) stand at the mound at the SEC Tournament on May 23, 2022.</p>

Auburn pitching coach Daron Schoenrock (left), catcher Nate LaRue (middle) and pitcher Tommy Vail (right) stand at the mound at the SEC Tournament on May 23, 2022.

For the second straight game, the Auburn bats were silenced as the Tigers were eliminated from their home regional, losing 7-2 to Southern Miss.

It was Auburn’s first 0-2 trip to the NCAA Regionals since 2002 when Florida Atlantic and Alabama eliminated the Tigers from the Tuscaloosa Regional. It ended a streak of three straight regional titles for the Tigers.

"I just felt like the last three regionals, we were in such a good spot and they played such good baseball," said head coach Butch Thompson. "And I did not get this team to the point of, ready to compete for being able to be there in the last day of it."

Auburn had just two hits through five innings, but the bats came alive in the sixth, as the Tigers recorded three hits in the frame and plated two runs.

Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles torched the Tigers with a home run barrage. Southern Miss hit four homers in the game, two by shortstop Dustin Dickerson, as the Golden Eagles created a five-run lead that Auburn could not surmount. Tommy Vail gave up three homers and was charged with the loss — his second of the season.

"They got three good swings off today on him," Thompson said. "And I thought he hung in there pretty good for the circumstances of everything that everybody didn't know. But he's a fighter for us, and we would not have been able to be here without Tommy Vail."

The Tigers were behind before they came up to bat. An error and a walk in the first inning put two runners on base for Christopher Sargent, who hit a three-run home run to put the Golden Eagles up. Auburn could never seriously challenge that lead. Southern Miss extended its lead with a pair of solo homers by Dickerson.

Through the first five innings, Auburn had little success against Southern Miss starter Billy Oldham. The Tigers got just two hits and three base runners against Oldham through five frames.

Auburn’s only runs of the game came in the sixth inning when the Tigers got four straight baserunners on a walk and three singles. The Tigers plated two in the frame, but the rally was ended on a force-out. Auburn chased Oldham from the game, but Southern Miss had nearly all of its relievers available, and Will Armistead took Southern Miss the rest of the way, pitching the final 3.1 innings.

The two runners stranded in the sixth started a trend for Auburn, which stranded two in each of the last four innings. With seven hits from the sixth inning on, Auburn equaled the Golden Eagles with nine hits but left 11 runners on base to the Golden Eagles’ four. Armistead gave up five hits and walked two, but the Tigers did not score against him.

"We pride ourselves on getting the timely hits when we needed to the past month or so," said senior Bryson Ware. "And the past few games, for whatever reason, it just hasn't been falling our way."

The loss brought an end to a season in which Auburn started 5-10 in SEC play and went 12-3 over the final five conference weekends to host its second straight regional.

"We battled our butts off," Ware said. " We don't really have anything to show for it the past two games but...ever since (Texas) A&M, I guess Mississippi State and on, we've competed our butts off and 12-3 in the second half of SEC play... it's a pretty big deal."

Auburn’s season ends with a record of 34-23-1, and Southern Miss will continue its tournament journey, the last for head coach Scott Barry, against the loser of the Samford vs. Penn game.

Matthew Wallace | Assistant Sports Editor

Matthew is a senior from Huntsville, Alabama, majoring in journalism. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2021.

Twitter: @mattwallaceAU

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