HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - Eight months after falling to Mississippi State in the Hattiesburg Regional Championship, #21 Southern Miss took full advantage of their 2018 season opener against the Bulldogs at Pete Taylor Park, walloping #23 Mississippi State 11-0 in front of a crowd of 4,948.
""It's something we've been looking forward to for a long time," Golden Eagles pitcher Nick Sandlin said.
In his first collegiate start, Sandlin turned in a marquee performance, striking out a career-high nine batters during seven shutout innings. The Golden Eagles batters balanced his stellar start, turning in eleven runs on eleven hits, including a five-spot in the bottom of the eighth.
"I was glad to get the opportunity to start on Opening Night," Sandlin said. "After we got that first inning out of the way, kind of settled in and just felt really comfortable today."
"Sandlin was phenomenal on the mound tonight," Bulldogs head coach Andy Cannizaro said. "He did an outstanding job of really setting the tone and allowing those guys to kind of settle in to the game. He was the best guy in the ballpark tonight."
East Central product Konnor Pilkington got the start on the mound for Mississippi State, and turned in a few quick strikeouts early on. However, Cannizaro pulled the former Hornet after he gave up two runs on five hits in four innings to go with six strikeouts.
"He's one of the best arms in the SEC," Cannizaro said about Pilkington after the game. "Last year started out the same exact way, he was going three or four innings a start, (but he) got better as the year went on, and he'll continue to do that."
The victory technically marked career win number 300 for Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry, even though, ironically, he was nowhere to be found inside of Pete Taylor Park Friday night. Berry is still serving a two-game suspension due to an altercation during last year's Hattiesburg Regional Championship, so he will return to the Golden Eagles dugout on Sunday.