GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Southern Miss, in a remarkable fashion, earned its first ticket to the College World Series on Sunday night with a dramatic 7-6 come from behind win over Florida — sweeping the NCAA super regional.
The Golden Eagles, who battled back from a five-run deficit, will head to Omaha with a 40-24 record with their 12th win in the last 15 games.
More importantly, the Cory Palmer Era rolls on.
“This is awesome,” Palmer said. “It’s unbelievable when you look back at to what these guys did the last three weeks. When we were down 6-1, they never quit. They never gave up. They never thought the game was over.”
The Golden Eagles erased a 6-1 deficit against Gators top reliever Billy Bullock, who entered the eighth inning with a 2.12 ERA.
With Florida clinging to a 6-4 lead through seven innings, the Golden Eagles saw Bullock, who had 11 saves on the season, hit Bo Davis with his second pitch. James Ewing then picked up a walk before Kameron Brunty struck out.
That brought Adam Doleac, a pinch hitter to the plate.
With a berth in the College World Seires on the line, Doleac drove a Bullock pitch to right to load the bases. That hit was followed by a Joey Archer double to right center to tie the game at 6-6.
The magic continued when Tyler Koelling hit into what appeared to be a routine double play to the shortstop. But the throw from second to first was dropped by Preston Tucker, allowing Doleac to score the most famous run scored in Southern Miss history.
“This is awesome,” Ewing said. “We are not finished. We are one of eight teams left and we are going to Omaha to play for a national championship.”
Florida, a No. 8 national seed, didn’t score a run in the final six innings and saw its season end when Southern Miss turned its 80th double play, tops in the nation, with one out in the ninth.
“This is what you play baseball for,” Southern Miss shortstop B.A. Vollmuth said. “Wow, this is awesome. Some people counted us out, but never did gave up. We are not finished. We are going to Omaha and that’s why I came to Southern Miss. I knew we could do it.”
In the top of the first, Tucker hit his 15th home run off the season off Todd McInnis for a 1-0 lead. That lead, however, was short-lived when Bo Davis, the Golden Eagles leadoff hitter, launched his 14th home run off Florida starter Nick Maronde.
The Gators, up 2-1, stretched the lead to five, at 6-1, with four runs off three hits in the third inning.
From that point, Southern Miss began stalking the Gators, one run at a time..
In the bottom of the fourth, Southern Miss forced Florida starter Nick Maronde to exit the game and immediately cut the lead to 6-3 on a single by Corey Stevens and a double by Joey Archer.
However, with one out, pinch hitter Kyle Maxie hit a short fly out to right only to see Stevens being thrown out at the plate before being when he attempted to run over the catcher.
That sparked the Golden Eagles, and Ewing, an inning later, cut the lead to 6-4 with his fourth home run of the season.
That set the stage for an inning that will never be forgotten in the history of Southern Miss baseball.
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Al Jones/The Sun Herald/MCT