Illinois upends No. 18 Southern Miss 9-4 in Sunday’s rubber match, wins series.

HATTIESBURG, Ms – Illinois upset No. 18 Southern Miss, winning the series two games to one. Here are the full game recaps with quotes from each game:


Game 1

Illinois stunned Southern Miss 13-5 in the first game of the series after blasting three home runs and scoring multiple runs in three straight innings. Missed opportunities and poor play from the bullpen all contributed heavily to the loss.

“We got outplayed, in every area. We didn’t pitch well enough, offensively didn’t do well enough to keep the momentum and keep building.” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said.

Tanner Hall started on the mound for Southern Miss, and for a preseason all-American, he did not have his best stuff tonight. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K’s. Southern Miss just allowed two earned runs all season, but Hall gave up five in just five innings—very uncharacteristic of him.

“I didn’t see much action down in the zone with him. But credit Illinois man, they extended some bats, they fouled pitches off on him, they got some pitches up.” Berry said. “No, he didn’t have his best night, but he competed.”

After Hall left the mound, it was all Illinois. They got eight of their 13 runs in the innings after Hall left. So, unlike the first four games, the bullpen slacked tonight against a good lineup, which was one of the biggest questions coming into the season.

The Fighting Illini started the scoring in the top of the third, with Cam McDonald reaching on a fielder’s choice RBI, which made the score 1-0. With two outs, Drake Westcott blasted a home run to right field, which set the tone of the game and extended the lead to 4-0.

One of the two biggest misses for Southern Miss on the night was in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Golden Eagles had the bases loaded with no outs. The starting pitcher for Illinois, Riley Gowens, then struck out three Golden Eagle batters to end the inning and strand the three baserunners.

Hall then gave up another home run in the top of the fifth, bringing the score to 5-0. Southern Miss finally got momentum in the bottom of the fifth, plating three runs. They had the bases loaded again in this inning, with two outs, and Danny Lynch was inches away from a grand slam that would have changed the game. However, they still scored three runs to bring the score to 5-3.

Nevertheless, Illinois, like they did all night, responded. They put up three runs in the top of the sixth to bring the lead back to five instantly and then put up two more runs in the seventh.

Slade Wilks led Southern Miss in batting, going 3-5, including a 466-foot deep fly to right field in the bottom of the seventh.

Illinois would scratch across two more runs before the game ended. All in all, it was just a bad night on both sides of the ball, and Illinois really showed they are a force to be reckoned with in the series.

“Hats off to them, credit them for a game well played, and we know we’re going to have to play better tomorrow.” Berry said.

Game 2


For a five-hour and 17-minute contest, it ended with excitement, thanks to Carson Paetow walking off Illinois in extra innings (11) 14-13.

“It felt great. That felt awesome. Any chance you get to walk off at the Pete, is fun.” Paetow said.

In a wild game, which saw five lead changes, 28 combined hits, and 27 combined runs. As some would like to say, it was a day for the offensive.

Paetow was involved in the first Illini run when Cam McDonald ripped a ball out to the RF wall, and Paetow tried to catch it but instead collided with the wall and went down. This, in turn, let McDonald score an inside-the-park home run to give the Fighting Illini a 1-0 lead. The concern for USM was on Paetow at that moment, who stayed down on the field for a while before getting up and continuing to play.

“I’ve never had anything happen like that, so it kind of freaked me out when I was on the ground and didn’t know where I was for a few seconds.  Once I got back in the dugout, and just focused on the next at bat it all went away,” Paetow said.

USM fans can thank him for toughening that out on what looked like a nasty collision. Paetow came up with an incredible catch in extra innings that likely would have gone for extra bases if he wouldn’t have come up with that. Then in the next half-inning, he comes up with the game-winning hit.

But before we get there, after being down 1-0, USM responded almost instantly. After Matthew Etzel led off with a single, and Dustin Dickerson was hit by a pitch, Paetow came up with a single, and USM had the bases juiced with no outs. They were able to score two of those runs thanks to joint Sac-Fly – RBIs by Christopher Sargent and Reece Ewing.

After no score for either team in the second, the third inning was different. Illinois scored thanks to McDonald coming up with a two-RBI double to give Illinois back the lead 3-2. Then Southern Miss started a hitting party in the bottom half of the inning. Danny Lynch and Creek Robertson both came up with two-RBI hits, and Dickerson plated another with an RBI single of his own. Southern Miss would add another run in the fifth to bring the score to 8-3 USM.

“A really gutsy performance by our team. WE really took the emotions and moved it from one inning to the next. Hats off to the Illinois and what they were able to do to answer us and but hats off to us and what we were able to do on our offense to answer them. We scored in eight of the 11 innings. Six of those came after they had scored so we answered. We talked last night about getting momentum, keeping momentum if you lose it, you got to get it back. And I think tonight you saw that, and our team was determined to keep that momentum on our side.” Berry said.

However, Illinois wouldn’t go away easily. After Southern Miss pitcher Billy Oldham walked in a run in the sixth, Branden Comia reached on a fielder’s choice RBI, then a throwing error on Dickerson scored another run to bring the score to 8-6.


The Golden Eagles got one of those runs back in the bottom of the sixth after Blake Johnson got himself an RBI-double down the LF line. Illinois tied it up in the next inning when Cal Hejza sent a pitch from JB Middleton to the moon, for a three-run homerun to tie the game at nine.

Southern Miss reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the seventh when Illinois walked in a run (10-9 USM)

Nobody scored in the eighth and USM was clinging to a one run lead going into the ninth. Then, after Justin Storm walked the first two batters he faced, Hejza did it again. He sent another three-run homer to left field to give Illinois the lead late.

“Credit our guys for staying the course there was a lot of emotions, you know, the three-run homer there in the ninth where we thought we had it and they said no.” Berry said.

Paetow coming back from the nasty play in the beginning of the game, to be being the hero is truly remarkable to see.

What wasn’t remarkable was the pitching tonight for Southern Miss.

“It was an ugly game on the mound for both teams. If both of our programs are wanting to play at the end, then certainly we’re going to have to clean that up. We’ve walked way too many people, and we’re giving up way too many runs.” Berry said.

Southern Miss sent out nine guys tonight, all but two gave up runs to Illinois. Just a very uncharacteristic night from the pitching side for Southern Miss, fans aren’t used to seeing this. Even pitchers who had great debuts last week such as Billy Oldham and JB Middleton, but here Illinois was all over them.

Nick Monistere is the one outlier from them, however. He came in in the eleventh inning and downed Illinois to give his team a chance to walk it off. He earned the win tonight in the scorebook.

“I’ve been ready for it. Coach Oz tells us every single day to stay ready, whenever your number is called, you got to be ready to get your outs. That’s what I was ready to do.” Monistere said.

But at the end of the day, Southern Miss got the win and improved to 5-1 on the season and remarkably they have a shot to win this series in the rubber match tomorrow.

“Should be quite a rubber match. We wanted to bring this series back in the middle of the ring, and that’s exactly what we did today.” Berry said.

The deciding game of the series will take place at 1 ET, and it can be seen on ESPN+

Game 3

Illinois upended Southern Miss 9-4 in Sunday’s rubber match to clinch the series.

“Honestly, the better team won this weekend. Two out of the three games they played really well, I think consistently their offense showed up every single day, and that was the difference.” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said after the game.

Illinois flexed their consistency on the offensive side with a seven-run sixth to take a firm grip on the game. Eight consecutive hits, six for extra bases, to open the innings and put up seven runs to take a commanding 9-0 lead.

Niko Mazza started the day on the mound for Southern Miss and gave up two runs in the top of the first inning after fanning the first two batters he saw. After that, Mazza was able to post four scoreless innings. However, USM could not get any runs across over those scoreless innings, which would prove the difference in the game.

“I feel like the game was lost on the offensive side in the second and the fourth.” Berry said.

Mazza had been dealing, and Southern Miss was trying to get any momentum. In the second, they had runners at first and second with only one out and could not scratch a run across. Then, in the fourth, Reece Ewing led off with a double, and again Southern Miss could not scratch a run across.

“We have got to start faster on our offensive. Niko really battled in those five, they were able to get him for two in the first but then he really settled in. He did a great job of holding us in there. It’s kind of been the story of the year so far. When we get punched in the mouth, we’re tough, we throw some punches back. But we’ve been waiting to get punched in the mouth a little too much.” Third baseman Danny Lynch said.

Lynch got Southern Miss on the board in the bottom half of the sixth, with a three-run home run, his first of the year.

When Mazza came out in the top of the fifth, and Southern Miss had zero runs on the board after holding Illinois to just two, you just knew it was just a matter of time before Illinois could get their offense going, which is precisely what happened. Over the weekend, Illinois plated 25 of their 35 runs after Southern Miss’s starting pitchers came out.

It is safe to say Illinois revealed many questions in Southern Miss’s pitching staff. They scored 35 runs over the weekend, and it seemed like every batter had a 3-2 count. All in all, just intelligent hitting by the fighting Illini. Throughout the weekend, Southern Miss struggled to get outs. Their starting pitchers fared well against an excellent lineup but struggled to keep their pitch count low.

“Their [starting pitchers] pitch counts got way to high. On Friday, Tanner’s got high. Yesterday, Adams was high. And their guys weren’t. Today. After two innings Niko is at 49 pitches, their guy is at 29 pitches. Their ability to extend those at bats against us. It seemed like we were at 2-2 counts, and we aren’t winning those counts. Now all of the sudden you’re at 3-2 counts. Now your locked in to pretty much a certain pitch, and against a good hitting team like this: They are either going to take a ball off the plate like we saw, or they are going to turn it around, which we saw too. We have got to be able to get our outs earlier in the counts, and to quit running these things up to full counts.” Berry said.

All in all, it is back to the drawing board for Southern Miss’s pitching staff after the performance this weekend. They have a long season ahead, and growing pains are to be expected with staff this young.

Southern Miss falls to 5-2 and is back in action on Tuesday, when they take on Mississippi State (5-3) in Pearl, Ms.