College baseball: Mississippi State slugger Brent Rooker is all about offense
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker leads the Southeastern Conference in nine offensive categories and is on track to have the greatest season by any player in the conference since new bat standards went into effect in 2011.
The redshirt junior first baseman might look back at Saturday as his signature performance. He hit three homers, including a grand slam, and went 4 for 4 with six RBIs in a 10-6 win over Kentucky.
"It's still a little bit of a blur," Rooker said Monday. "To hit one home run in a game is always fun. Hitting two is special. Hitting three is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Each home run was its own separate event. I went up to the plate after each one thinking, 'No way I can do that again,' and then it happened."
Rooker entered this week leading the SEC with a .448 batting average, 15 homers, 19 doubles, 56 RBIs, 1.008 slugging percentage, .548 on-base percentage, 56 hits, 126 total bases and 14 steals. Nationally, he's first in RBIs, slugging and total bases and second in average, home runs and hits.
How was Brent Rooker's week?April 10, 2017
Rooker started the season batting cleanup but moved up to the 2-hole because, with hitters struggling behind him in the order, he was getting pitched around. Few teams have the 1-2-3 punch of the Bulldogs now, with leadoff batter Jake Mangum (.374), Rooker and Ryan Gridley (.348).
The Bulldogs (22-12) won two of three against Kentucky and are tied for the SEC West lead with Arkansas and Auburn at 8-4.
"I've got a good supporting cast around me that's allowing me to put up some numbers," Rooker said. "I've got guys on base all the time I can drive in, and guys are hitting great behind me, and it makes people pitch to me a little bit. Give credit where credit is due. As a team we're performing really well, which has allowed me to continue to see the ball really well."
Rooker, who has six multi-homer games in his career, became the first Mississippi State player to hit three in a game since 2010. Rooker's first two homers against Kentucky came on a fastball and changeup from left-hander Zach Logue and his third on a fastball from Chris Machamer.
The feat was enhanced because it happened on Super Bulldog Weekend, the annual three-day extravaganza when all the spring sports teams play at home and the spring football game is held.
"He's confident. He has a plan. He's executing his game plan right now to perfection," Bulldogs coach Andy Cannizaro said. "Being able to do what he did, homer three times in front of 13,000 people here on Super Bulldog Weekend, is probably one of the coolest moments in Mississippi State baseball history, and you're talking about a program with so much pride and tradition."
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