February 19, 2018 10:51:35 AM
HATTIESBURG -- History is being made, and not in the good way. Still, no one in the Mississippi State baseball program is panicking.
A 5-2 loss to No. 21 Southern Mississippi on Sunday at Pete Taylor Park dropped No. 23 MSU to 0-3 for the first time since 1996. The loss marks the first time the Bulldogs have been swept in a three-game series to open the season since 1906.
In 1996, MSU lost the first four of the season to four teams.
The history doesn't matter to MSU junior center fielder Jake Mangum and his teammates.
"There's no excuses for how we played this weekend, but that's not how we're going to play all year. I promise you that," Mangum said. "We'll be fine, we just have to figure out our stride and we'll do that sooner rather than later.
"This isn't some panic mode. ... We have to get back to work, find the right guys to step up, and we'll be ready. We're fine. I promise you."
Said MSU coach Andy Cannizaro, "We're not a very good baseball team right now, but we're going to continue to get better, and this is going to be a good baseball team."
MSU managed only three hits in the loss. It also had one standout reliever in each game of the series, but it needed more than one, as each starting pitcher lasted four innings.
For Mangum, the errors stand out the most, even though he didn't commit one. Two errors Sunday gave Southern Miss (3-0) two unearned runs.
"The past two days we gave them seven runs," Mangum said. "If we make the plays we're supposed to make defensively, that's seven runs you take away from them. It's really hard to score runs, especially opening weekend when you have three freshmen in the lineup every day. We have guys that haven't pitched in two years. We're going to have growing pains. We had them last year, too, and last year turned out to be a pretty good year."
Mangum and Cannizaro said time will help the Bulldogs overcome those growing pains. MSU saw nine players make their debuts in the series, including four in starting roles.
MSU won't have a lot of time to regroup. It will play Wednesday at Jackson State. This weekend, it will face UC Santa Barbara, Nicholls State, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas.
"The biggest thing is getting them back on the practice field, getting them back in the mode of working on our skills and working on our game," Cannizaro said.
The veterans also will be called on for more.
"We're lacking some thump in the middle of the lineup," Cannizaro said. "We're lacking some guys that have the ability to get in the box, drive the ball into gaps, and drive it over the fence. There are guys on this team that have the potential. We just need them to grow into that role and understand this is what they need to do on this team.
"Everybody knows what (Brent) Rooker did and (Ryan) Gridley did (last year, combining to hit 29 home runs and to drive in 121 runs). We lost a lot of thump in the middle of the order and we didn't return a lot of home runs. There are certain guys that need to hit three, four, and five that we need to drive runs in and they didn't necessarily do that this weekend. It doesn't mean they're not going to do that. It just means they didn't do it this weekend against a very good team."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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