STARKVILLE— After tying the game 3-3, Southern Miss looked to stage a comeback win but instead fell short as Mississippi State’s Tanner Allen hit a two-out RBI double in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the series for the Bulldogs with a 4-3 win.
For the second day in a row, Southern Miss struggled at the plate, getting just two of its leadoff runners on base and stranding a total of 11 baserunners.
“Two out of the nine innings this game we got the leadoff man on and we got to do a better job at that,” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said. “I’m not giving enough signals over in the third base box. That’s never a good thing.”
The other main issue for Southern Miss was its defense, which gave up three errors in the contest.
“Yesterday we didn’t play any phase of the game well and today we had three [errors],” Berry said. “It’s hard when you are giving them extra outs. To win baseball games you better score a lot of runs if you are going to do that and we’re not doing that.”
Mississippi State jumped out to a 3-1 lead by the third inning, a run that was kick-started by defensive miscommunication on a fly ball that set up an RBI single. That miscommunication allowed the Bulldogs up to gain a 1-0 lead.
An RBI single by Hunter Slater in the third inning tied the game up at 1-1, but the Bulldogs answered back quickly with two more runs in the third inning off of an RBI single.
“I personally made a lot of mistakes on my part,” Hunter LeBlanc said. “[I] got to clean that up and got to work on it a lot at practice. Just more reps. We expect to clean it up but its definitely a big factor because our offense usually carries our team but you got to have a defense to go with it.”
LeBlanc started a two-out rally in the sixth inning with a solo home run, which was followed by an RBI single from Fred Franklin.
“When you look at it and leave 11 men left on base, we had opportunities there, especially the way we were pitching that we could have got out of here with a win,” Berry said. “We let the ball drop in the first inning that scores a run there that should have been an out. Then of course in the last inning, we just didn’t defend like we needed to.”
The defining defensive moment came in the ninth inning, as a throwing error put Mississippi State’s eventual game-winning run on the bases.
On the mound for Southern Miss, starting pitcher Mason Strickland tweaked his ankle while running to tag first base and limited his outing to just 2.1 innings. Strickland allowed three runs on four hits. Despite his outing, the bullpen did not give up any earned runs.
“[Strickland] strained that ankle there on the very first play and it got tight on it,” Berry said. “I think that affected, especially there in that inning when he gave up the runs. We gave ourselves a chance to win there. After that our guys performed very well on the mound and threw five shutout innings until we got there in the ninth and we give up the unearned run. Very pleased that our pitching staff gave us a chance there and we battled. We get the two runs in the sixth inning to tie it up and we had chances.”
Southern Miss now (4-2) will return home to play the University of New Orleans on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m.