AUBURN, Ala. – After putting together an impressive second-half campaign, Auburn was able to secure a regional and come in as the favorite to make it out. Despite dropping the first game to Penn, Auburn still remanded in control of its destiny. With the season on the line against Southern Miss in an elimination game, Auburn was unable to get anything going on either side of the ball, ultimately leading to an early exit by a score of 7-2.
"The responsibility lies on me," Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. "Our team made a good run. This group put us in position after a really tough start and stayed in the fight the entire season to get us to this point to host a regional. We didn't link it up enough in these two days to have success against two really good opponents."
Tommy Vail would get the start in the matchup after Auburn elected to go with Chase Allsup in the opening game of the regional against Penn. The graduate transfer could not get comfortable throughout the whole outing, giving up four hits and five runs in just 4.1 innings of action.
"He's a fighter for us," Thompson said of Vail. "We would not have been able to be here without Tommy Vail. "
Southern Miss junior Dustin Dickerson got the best of Vail, catching two balls right on the sweet spot, and sending it over the wall. Dickerson was only the edge of the iceberg as the Golden Eagles recorded a total of nine hits in the matchup.
Auburn’s bats would not get going right away like Southern Miss. The Tigers would only record two hits in the first five innings, but it was a different story at the start of the sixth. Cole Foster would record the third hit of the game and give Auburn life with a runner on base. It would quickly be followed by Chris Stanfield and Cooper McMurray both hitting singles, which would lead to a couple of runs.
Even with the promising sixth inning, Auburn never came close to the success that Southern Miss had with runners on base. On multiple occasions Auburn failed to covert with multiple runners on base, leaving 11 runners on base compared to the four the Golden Eagles left.
"I really felt like we were one or two swings away," Thompson said. "I didn't think our approach started getting better until the sixth inning today."
Possibly the biggest sticking point is Auburn’s lack of extra-base hits. The Tigers finish with zero throughout the two games played in the regional.
Chase Isbell kept the contest within striking distance after coming in during the sixth inning but would give up a crucial home run in the top of the eighth inning which extend the Southern Miss lead. Despite the home run, Isbell would anchor the team, finishing with four strikeouts and one run, which came off a solo shot to right field, when all was said and done.
Southern Miss would have much better luck when it came to pitching. Billy Oldham started and would not let up in 5.2 innings of work. The junior dominated the first five innings, only giving up one hit, but would head to the bench after giving up the lone pair of runs to Auburn in the sixth.
Cole Foster would be a bright spot in all the darkness for the Tigers. The junior was the only Tiger to record multiple hits, finishing with two. In addition, Foster was able to reach base yet another time due to a walk.
After putting together a memorable second half comeback to the season, Auburn just did not have what it takes to go back to Omaha, untimely finishing off in disappointing fashion at its own regional.
"Being able to play in front of these fans is something I'll hang my hat on for years to come," said Ware, who set Auburn's season record with 24 home runs. "I'm really happy that I was a part of that and could contribute. It's a really cool memory that I'll cherish for a really long time."