Rooker’s homers lift MSU

Published 8:35 am Thursday, April 6, 2017

By Logan Lowery
Tupelo Daily Journal

STARKVILLE — Having already lost to Florida International on Tuesday, Mississippi State was on the verge of being swept in the midweek after falling behind the Panthers by five runs in the third inning Wednesday.

But the Bulldogs battled their way back behind the bat of Brent Rooker. The junior first baseman crushed a pair of two-run home runs, including one in the bottom of the 10th, to give MSU a 9-7 walk-off win.

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“Anytime you’re playing at home, you don’t want someone to come in here and push you around for two straight days,” Mississippi State coach Andy Cannizaro said. “I was really glad our guys rebounded from yesterday and came out here and won a really big ballgame today.”

After Jake Mangum led off the final inning with an infield single, Rooker stepped in and drilled a 2-1 pitch just to the right of the batter’s eye in center field for his SEC-leading 12th homer of the season off FIU reliever Cain Spangler.

“The first three pitches were fastballs and I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to throw four fastballs in a row so I was just sitting on the breaking ball,” Rooker said. “I saw it, put a good swing on it and it just happened to catch barrel and something good happened.”

Rooker led the Bulldogs’ 13-hit attack by going 3-for-4 with two homers, five RBIs and three runs scored. He also extended his hitting streak to 16 games.

“I think he’s the best hitter in America right now,” Cannizaro said. “It’s not just right-handed power, he’s a complete hitter. He’s seeing spin really well, using the whole field and is able to do real damage to mistakes that are out over the plate.”

Hunter Vansau was 3-for-5 for State at the plate with a pair of RBIs, while Luke Alexander was 2-for-5 and scored the tying run on a passed ball in the bottom of the eighth inning, which would eventually force the extra frames.

Spencer Price improved to 3-1 on the mound after pitching 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. He gave up just one hit and a walk while striking out three.

“I was just trying to keep it down and not give up any doubles or extra base hits,” Price said. “Singles were okay, I just wanted to get them to swing at my pitches. I didn’t want to leave anything over the plate for them to hit.”

The Diamond Dogs (20-11) used a total of 11 pitchers during their two-game series with Florida International (17-12) and were running low on options when the game went into extras.

“Spencer Price was going to go out on the mound for one more inning and after that I have no idea,” Cannizaro said. “It was going to be someone’s knuckleball out on the mound. I was really glad Rooker won the ballgame when he did because we were officially out of bullets.”