Southern Miss fell short in a pitching duel to Mississippi State as the Golden Eagles dropped their midweek game 2-1 in extra innings.
“To be quite honest, I was disappointed in the ending,” Southern Miss coach Brian Levin said. “I told the team that we have to quit playing games like we are expecting something bad to happen and go out and play like you expect to win. The mentality kind of needs to change a little bit.”
Starting pitcher Karsen Pierce got off to a rocky start but managed to control the damage and pitch out of several jams.
After pitching out of a bases-loaded situation in the first inning, Pierce loaded the bases again in the second with no outs after giving up a leadoff walk and two back-to-back singles. Mississippi State capitalized by scoring a run on a fielder’s choice and take a 1-0 lead, but Pierce induced a ground ball and fly out to end the inning. Pierce then settled in as she gave up one hit between the third and fifth inning.
At the same time, Mississippi State’s starting pitcher Emily Williams was throwing a perfect game until Pierce broke it up in the fifth inning with a solo home run and tied the game 1-1.
“She’s seeing the ball well,” Levin said. “I think as a team we were doing a better job by the third inning, getting into deeper counts. We were able to see more pitches.
I think that was kind of a team thing that we were able to take pitches, get deeper into counts, and I think that helped.”
However, Pierce fell into trouble in the sixth inning as she loaded the bases with one out. Southern Miss brought in Kaylan Ladner, who retired the next two batters. In 5.1 innings, Pierce allowed one run off seven hits, walked one batter and struck out two.
Offensively, Southern Miss had no answers for Williams and reliever Annie Willis as they combined for 14 strikeouts and gave up just three hits and no walks.
“They are quality pitchers,” Levin said. “That’s their No. 1 and 2 pitchers that they throw against all the SEC teams. It was a challenge. It definitely was a challenge, but if we expect to win our conference tournament and go on to a regional, then that’s who we are going to face. We have to be able to step up to those types of pitchers. They did a really good job.
“It was tough on us. We were swinging at a lot of bad pitches. Pitchers like that make you do that.”
Ladner pitched out of several jams and forced the game to go in extra-innings as she stranded three more baserunners between the seventh and eighth innings. However, in the ninth inning, Ladner walked two batters with one out, which the Bulldogs took advantage of with a RBI double to take the win.
Despite walking four batters in 3.2 innings, Ladner allowed one run off two hits and struck out two. Ladner and Pierce combined to strand 12 MSU baserunners on the night.
“All year long up to this point, we have proven that we can pitch,” Levin said. “We have some quality pitchers. Karsen and (Ladner) showed that again tonight. They did a really good job. I’m proud of that. Karsen has pitched here in a little bit, so she was a little shaky in the first couple innings, but then she settled in and did well. (Ladner) came in to finish it up and did a good job as well.”
Southern Miss will start conference play on Friday as the Golden Eagles travel to play UTEP, with Friday’s first pitch set for 2 p.m.
“I’m happy with the team overall,” Levin said. “I think we are in a good place going into conference play.
“We have played some quality teams and played them well. We have proven that we can play with anybody if we are on our A-game.”