Southern Mississippi Sweeps Florida To Go To Omaha
(With the end of the year fast approaching, we’re counting down some of the top moments from the 2009 college baseball season. We’ll have one a day through New Year’s Eve.)
Wasn’t the story good enough when Southern Mississippi won the Atlanta Regional? The Golden Eagles were already the only #3 seed to win a 2009 Regional after beating Elon once and then taking two of three games from Georgia Tech on the Yellow Jacket’s home field to advance to the program’s first ever Super Regional.
Did I mention the fact that USM head coach Corky Palmer had announced his retirement just a month before that Regional title? “This season we will keep working as hard as we can and to accomplish as much as we can,” Palmer said at the press conference to announce his impending retirement. ” We’ve had two great wins against East Carolina and Ole Miss in the last two games, and we’ll continue to be competitive the rest of the year.” What an understatement that turned out to be.
Southern Miss became one of three Conference USA teams to make a 2009 Super Regional (along with Rice and East Carolina). Who could have predicted that Corky’s corps of relative unknowns would be the last C-USA team standing on college baseball’s biggest stage?
Here’s a look at how Southern Mississippi beat #8 National Seed Florida in the Gainesville Super Regional:
June 6: Game one started at 3:05 in the afternoon and Southern Miss. struck first. Freshman B.A. Vollmuth, who was one of named the Atlata Regional’s Most Outstanding Player a week earlier, started the scoring in the top of the 2nd with his 4th postseason home run. Corey Stevens gave USM another run in the 3rd on a sac fly. Then the rain came.
A one hour delay was not good for Golden Eagles starting pitcher J.R. Ballinger, who was named to the Atlanta All- Regional team as well. Ballinger gave up four runs (just one of them earned) in the bottom of the 3rd and exited with his team trailing 4-2. The lead changed twice over the next two innings until Southern Miss. put a four spot on the
board in the top of the 6th inning to go up 9-6.
Jonathon Johnston gave-up just one hit in 3 2/3 scoreless innings to make sure his team would not give-up the lead again and then Collin Cargill earned his 12th save of the season (despite giving-up a 9th inning run) to finish-off the stunning 9-7 win.
Both teams managed 12 hits and one home run in the game. It was the fourth time in five NCAA Tournament game that the Golden Eagles rapped-out at least 12 hits.
June 7: Southern Mississippi was the designated home team for game two, but it looked early on like it wasn’t going to be their day. Florida jumped-out to a 6-1 lead through the first three innings. USM ace Jeff McInnis was roughed-up for all 6 runs in 5 IP.
The Golden Eagles chipped at the lead by scoring two runs in the 4th and adding another in the 5th inning to make it a 6-4 game. That was the score when USM batted in the bottom of the 8th.
Southern Miss. rallied for 3 runs in the bottom of the inning. USM had tied the score 6-6 and had runners at first and third with one out. Adam Doleac scored on a ground ball hit by Tyler Koelling after Joey Archer was forced out at second base. Koelling had to beat the relay throw to first to avoid an inning-ending double play.
Doleac was only in the game because he had entered the game in the clean-up spot after Corey Stevens was ejected from the game after a collision with Florida catcher Buddy Munroe.
The bullpen came-up big again for Southern Miss. Scott Copeland tossed 3 shutout innings and then Cargill induced a double play to end the game and send the Golden Eagles to the school’s first College World Series. “Their bullpen again did a heck of a job,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said afterward. ” We had a solid game plan going against their starter, but once again their bullpen put up six-straight zeroes on the scoreboard.”
In the two Super Regional games the USM bullpen pitched gave-up just 3 runs on 8 hits in 10 innings of work. Cargill saved both games to run his season total to 13.
“It’s been a great ride,” Palmer said after the Super Regional win. “I don’t know what happened three weeks ago but those seniors bonded and we just grew up each week. We’ve earned everything that we have got. We had great relief pitching and Joey (Archer) got the big hit. This is quite an accomplishment for our school to go to Omaha. Seven-straight regionals are nothing to sneeze at but to take this step to Omaha will do wonders for our program.”
Palmer’s retirement would have to wait.
CLICK HERE to listen to a podcast interview with Southern Mississippi’s B.A. Vollmuth.
Other Top Moments Of 2009