HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - Mississippi State dropped the final game of their Opening Weekend Series with No. 21 Southern Miss 5-2 Sunday.
MSU starter Jacob Billingsley held USM to a couple of runs through four innings before the Golden Eagles broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning.
"I thought [Billingsley] gave us an outstanding effort today," Mississippi State head baseball coach Andy Cannizaro said. "This was an extremely competitive ballgame. We found out that we have a lot of work to do."
The Golden Eagles (3-0) struck first in the bottom of the second with as outfielder Gabe Montenegro punch an infield RBI single. Later in the inning, Billingsley gave up a bases loaded walk to make it 2-0, but was able to avoid any more damage.
State fought back in the top of the third. Jake Mangum was hit by a pitch with two outs and scored after three straight walks. In the next bat, Tanner Allen was hit by a pitch to tie the ballgame.
USM pulled away in the fifth as a Luke Reynolds two-RBI double turned into three runs after a Bulldog error.
Freshman Josh Hatcher added another hit to his stellar weekend, going 1-for-3 with a couple of walks and a run scored Sunday.
State used four pitchers in the series finale, all making their first appearances of 2018. Zach Neff, a graduate transfer from Austin Peay, made his MSU debut and Blake Smith pitched for the first time in almost a year after injury kept him out most of 2017. Cole Gordon also pitched, and gave MSU 2.1 innings of shutout work.
Lefty Jacob Weirich (1-0) earned the win for USM after 2.2 innings of relief work, while Matt Wallner came in to earn the save. Neff (0-1) surrendered the final three runs and took the loss for State.
The Diamond Dawgs will continue their 12-game road swing to open the season on Wednesday against Jackson State at Robert Braddy Field with a 6 p.m. CT first pitch. Tickets for the game are $10 and lawn chairs and blankets are welcome. The Central MS Alumni Chapter will have a tent behind the MSU dugout (third base) where fans can sign up for assorted giveaways and door prizes. The only way to follow the action live for those not in attendance is on the Mississippi State Baseball Radio Network and online at HailState.com/Plus, or through TuneIn Radio.