Pitching continues to be Achilles Heel as four-run eighth inning rally lifts Mississippi State past No. 25 Southern Miss 10-9.

PEARL, Ms – Pitching continues to be the Achilles heel for Southern Miss baseball early this season, as Mississippi State rallies in the bottom of the eighth to beat No. 25 Southern Miss 10-9.

“It came down to execution in all honesty. The walks and the hit batters are coming back to haunt us. The same thing happened to Mississippi State. They walked a lot of people. They walked 12, and we walked eight. They hit one, and we hit five. So pretty sloppy on the mound.” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said.

The bullpen is a primary concern right now for Southern Miss. After starting pitcher Tyler Martin came out, Southern Miss gave up seven of Mississippi State’s ten runs. The pitching also walked eight batters but hit five batters. Real unfamiliar territory right now for Southern Miss fans.

“I would think so, yeah.” Berry said when asked whether or not he is concerned about the bullpen at this stage of the season. “Over the weekend we gave up 35 runs and 25 of them came from the bullpen. I think last year really, really spoiled us. We have got to figure out some pieces there.”

The problem right now for Southern Miss on that side of the ball is the consistency of the pen. Kros Sivley, who pitched tonight, threw 1.2 innings, gave up just one hit, and got a strikeout. He was a big boost for the Eagles. Nevertheless, he did not have a good outing over the weekend vs. Illinois, giving up four hits and four earned runs. So, it is just not consistent and a really nig concern at this stage of the season.

Even with the concern about the pitching, Southern Miss still had an opportunity to win the game. Southern Miss took a two-run lead in the top of the second after Matthew Etzel reached base on a fielder’s choice and scored two runs after an error on Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs responded with a five spot in the bottom of the fifth inning. Colton Ledbetter got himself a 3RBI-triple to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead. Dakota Jordan got himself an RBI single, and USM walked in a run.

Southern Miss got right back in the game in the top of the fourth when Dustin Dickerson doubled down the left field line, which brought two runs in to make the game 5-4, MSU.

Armani Larry then sent a ball deep to right field in the bottom of the fourth, which gave Mississippi State a 6-4 lead.

“Going into this game we have had trouble, not getting them on, but getting them in. We left 81 on in the seven games coming into this game…we didn’t have a lot of hits today, but we generated offense through Mississippi State’s walks and hit-by-pitches just like they generated their offense off ours.” Berry said.

The Golden Eagles put a four spot on the Bulldogs in the top of the fifth to go up by two, headed into the game’s back half. Danny Lynch reached an error on Mississippi State which scored a run. Freshman Creek Robertson got himself a double which scored Lynch. Then Etzel beat the throw to first on an awkward play which scored Robertson. All in all, Southern Miss led 8-6 going into the sixth.

The Golden Eagles added one more in the top of the eighth, thanks to Christopher Sargent hitting a sac-fly to center field to move the score to 9-6.

Then in the bottom of the eighth, the wheels just broke off for Southern Miss. The Bulldogs had the bases loaded with no outs, and they got all three players in plus one to take the lead. After that, it was just a simple three outs that Mississippi State had to get to win the game.

Victory snatched at the verge of victory, as they say. This one will sting for the Eagles as they will likely fall out of the national rankings. More importantly, they have many questions to answer as they welcome a tough Dallas Baptist ball club into Pete Taylor Park this weekend.

“We’re going to have to keep learning. Especially through this non-conference period until we get to conference. We just have so many unknown with new faces in some key areas such as our bullpen. Losing those five guys, not making it sound like an excuse, but it was pretty tough…you got a whole bunch of new guys and they are going to have to grow up real quick and the only way for them to grow up is to put them out there.” Berry said.

Right now, there are tons of questions for Southern Miss, and this schedule does not give them any breaks. Dallas Baptist has only lost a game, and then they have a date with Ole Miss on the docket next Tuesday in Oxford.

All in all, there is much reason to be at least concerned about Southern Miss baseball. But by no means is this time for the fans to throw in the towel, this is a long season, and they have to be given the time to figure stuff out. Once they do that, they are as good as anybody in the country.