Southern Miss dropped a Southeastern Conference showdown at home in a 2-1 battle against Mississippi State.
The Golden Eagles took the Bulldogs to nine innings tied at 1-1, but the Bulldogs scored a run and retired the side to escape with the victory.
“We’ve got to quit playing games like we’re expecting something bad to happen and go out there and play a game like you expect to win, and that’s kind of a mentality that needs to change a little bit,” Head Coach Brian Levin said.
The Golden Eagles have lost all five of its games against Southeastern Conference opponents this season, but finished its non-conference slate with an overall 18-12 record. Levin said the way his team played against tough opponents proves their strength.
“I think we’re in a pretty good place going into conference play,” Levin said. “We’ve played some quality teams and played them well and I think we’ve proven we can play with anybody if we’re on our A-game.”
Mississippi State earned nine hits in the game, but Southern Miss pitchers Karsen Pierce and Kaylan Ladner kept the team in the game, allowing only two runs.
“Up to this point, we’ve proven we can pitch. We’ve got some quality pitchers and Karsen and K.K. [Ladner] showed out tonight and did a really good job,” Levin said.
Pierce started for the Golden Eagles on the mound, staying on through five innings. She allowed seven hits and one run through his tenure, striking out two batters. Pierce also delivered at-bat for Southern Miss, notching two of the team’s three hits. This included the team’s only score of the game, with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth.
“She’s seeing the ball well and I think as a team, we were doing a little better job [starting] in the third inning to get into a little deeper counts,” Levin said. “We were able to see more pitches and I think that helped as Karsen came in the fifth and got one later. I think that was a team thing that we were able to get deeper into counts and see more pitches, which helped them.”
Mississippi State struck first after loading the bases in the second inning. Pierce allowed one run, but prevented further damage.
The Bulldogs’ pitcher Emily Williams retired Southern Miss’s first 12 batters before freshman Maria Smith hit a single in the fifth inning. Levin credited Mississippi State’s pitchers for their win. Mississippi State’s pitchers struck out 14 of Southern Miss’s batters.
“They [Mississippi State] have quality pitchers,” Levin said. “They [threw] against all the SEC teams, so it was a challenge but if we expect to win our conference tournament and go to a regional[. That’s] who we’re going to play, so we’ve got to be able to step up to those types of pitchers.”
Ladner took the mound from Pierce in the sixth inning and prevented any runs on loaded bases, keeping the game tied 1-1. Ladner earned the loss, though, after allowing the game-winning RBI double in the ninth inning. She finished with three strikeouts and allowed two hits, one run and four walks.
Southern Miss will now begin its conference schedule starting with an away series against UTEP. The Golden Eagles will face Mississippi State again at Starkville on April 14.