Bulldogs suffer another tough baseball result

Staff Writer

Though the sun did indeed come out for Andy Cannizaro and the No. 12 Mississippi State ball club on Saturday, they’ll wake up today with another disappointing result.

The Bulldogs had another rough start from its pitcher and more defensive miscues and they added some base-running mistakes to that list. It all added up to State’s first 0-2 start to the season since 2001 as Southern Miss clinched the series with a 7-4 victory.

“I thought we got better as a team as the game went on,” Cannizaro said. “That’s a really good ball club. They punched us in the mouth early, but we played better as the game went on. We’ve just got to find a way to get better as a team.”

MSU needed a better starting performance from Ethan Small than they had from Konnor Pilkington on Friday, but the sophomore left hander was rusty. After missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, Small made it just four innings, gave up seven hits and five runs and struck out six in the game.

Bullpen work improved for the most part as the Bulldogs had a quality performance from Trysten Barlow, who threw  2.1 scoreless innings giving up just one hit and striking out three batters.

Defense was a big reason the Bulldogs fell behind early on Saturday. A potential double play to end the first inning turned into just one out and scored a run for the Golden Eagles. A two-run single followed that and it was 3-0 after just one inning.

“You take away that first inning and we’re in the ball game," Small said. "We had a chance at one or two double play balls, but we came up short. I’ll wear that one.”

USM (2-0) brought the big bats out in the second inning when leadoff man Jaylon Keys blasted his first career home run and former Bulldog player Luke Reynolds hit a solo dinger of his own making it 5-0.

State put runs on the board for the first time for the weekend in the third when Josh Hatcher followed a Jake Mangum leadoff double with a two-run home run closing the lead to 5-2.

There were more opportunities for the Bulldogs on the base paths that went for naught in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and they would pay for those. With Denver McQuary on the mound in the sixth, pinch hitter Gabe Montenegro of the Golden Eagles tripled home a run and a groundout scored another one making it 7-2.

State added a run in the eighth inning on a Hunter Vansau RBI and in the ninth, a Rowdey Jordan triple payed off as Justin Foscue sacrificed him in. That did it for the run production.

The offensive production was much better for the Bulldogs on Saturday. After being held scoreless on six hits in the opening game, MSU outhit the USM 12-11. The freshman Hatcher was again superb at the plate leading the Bulldogs with his second-straight 3-for-4 afternoon and he had two RBI on his home run.

Vansau finished with two hits as did freshman Tanner Allen in the game. MSU hit into three double plays that erased momentum on several different occasions.

The Bulldogs are looking to avoid their first 0-3 start to the season in 22 years Sunday when they come back to Pete Taylor Park for game three. They’ll start senior right handed pitcher Jacob Billingsley for the 1 p.m. contest.

“This isn’t a below-average baseball team we’re playing," Cannizaro said of Southern Mississippi. "This is one of the best teams in the country. I look forward to us playing a complete nine innings (today) and do what it takes to win the ball game.”