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MSU’s Rooker wins Ferriss Trophy as Mississippi’s top player

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker has dominated the Southeastern Conference in a way that few hitters have ever done.

He hasn’t always made hitting look this easy.

Two years ago, Rooker was an average SEC hitter who only played in about half of the Bulldogs’ games. On Monday, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior first baseman won the C Spire Wireless Ferriss Trophy, which is given to the state’s top college baseball player.

The Germantown, Tenn., native said his progression from part-time player to the top of the SEC didn’t happen easily.

“It was a lot of time spent in the cage, a lot of time spent with the bat, a lot of time spent watching film,” Rooker said. “Just a lot of dedication, hard work and a lot of help from outside people like coaches and teammates.”

A few hours after winning the Ferriss Trophy, Rooker was also named the SEC player of the year by the league. Both honors came as no real surprise after an impressive season that helped Mississippi State finish with a 34-22 regular season record, including a 17-13 mark in league play.

Rooker leads the league in almost every meaningful offensive category. Going into this week’s SEC Tournament, he has a .415 batting average, 20 homers, 28 doubles, 73 RBIs, .873 slugging percentage and 18 stolen bases.

Mississippi State will open the SEC Tournament Tuesday at 8 p.m. against Georgia (25-31).

“It’s pretty cool just to look at that stuff. I try not to focus on that stuff,” Rooker said. “I try to just show up to the field every day and one, get better as player and an individual, and two, give my team a chance to win. That’s what I’ve done all year, and it’s put us in a position to go into postseason play. I’m playing well, I feel good about our chances, so I try to show up every day and give our team a chance to win and the numbers will take care of itself.”

Mississippi State head coach Andy Cannizaro said Rooker’s ability to adjust quickly has allowed him to have sustained success.

“You just have a feeling he’s going to do something big every time he walks into the box, and a lot of times he does,” Cannizaro said. “He has gigantic hits, he has gigantic home runs, he hits in clutch and pressure situations and he’s a guy who has been great since day one of the season this year.”

Rooker’s biggest game was in April against Kentucky when he hit three homers, including a grand slam, to lead the Bulldogs over Kentucky 10-6.

In remarks during the award ceremony, Cannizaro described how Rooker identified the pattern Kentucky was using to pitch to him — a change-up away followed by a fastball inside on the hands — and planned to adjust by taking a step back in the batter’s box as the pitcher began his delivery.

Sure enough, the first pitch of Rooker’s at-bat was an outside change-up that he took for ball one. The next pitch was an inside fastball. Rooker made his adjustment and hit the ball out of the park for a grand slam.

“It’s been like that every day since I’ve been here. He has a game plan for each and every day. He’s such a mature kid in general, but then his approach to hitting is a next-level, a professional approach on an amateur level right now,” Cannizaro said. “Just the pitch-to-pitch adjustments he’s been able to make are incredible to watch each and every day.”

Rooker won the Ferriss Trophy over four other finalists — Southern Miss’ Taylor Braley, Matt Wallner and Dylan Burdeaux, and Delta State’s Zack Shannon.

He’s the fourth Mississippi State player to win the Ferriss Trophy in the past six seasons, joining Hunter Renfroe, Chris Stratton and Jake Mangum.

Rooker is also the first Mississippi State player to win the SEC player of the year award since it was first handed out in 1993.

“It’s an honor just to be nominated, and to receive the (Ferriss Trophy) is really special to me,” Rooker said. “It’s what it represents, it’s who it represents. Coach (Boo) Ferriss is a legendary man who meant a lot to so many people. So it’s a really special honor for me.”

C Spire Ferriss Trophy winners
2017 – Brent Rooker, IF, Mississippi St.
2016 – Jake Mangum, OF, Mississippi St.
2015 – James McMahon, P, Southern Miss
2014 – Auston Bousfield, OF, Ole Miss
2013 – Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi St.
2012 – Chris Stratton, P, Mississippi St.
2011 – Tyler Koelling, OF, Southern Miss
2010 – Drew Pomeranz, P, Ole Miss
2009 – Craig Westcott, IF/P, Belhaven
2008 – Scott Bittle, P, Ole Miss
2007 – Ed Easley, C, Mississippi St.
2006 – Thomas Berkery, IF, Mississippi St.
2005 – Brian Pettway, OF, Ole Miss
2004 – Stephen Head, IF/P, Ole Miss
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Southeastern Conference Tournament
At Hoover, Ala.
May 23
Single elimination
Game 1 – South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt, 9:30 a.m.
Game 2 – Missouri vs. Texas A&M, 1 p.m.
Game 3 – Ole Miss vs. Auburn, 4:30 p.m.
Game 4 – Georgia vs. Mississippi St., 8 p.m.
May 24
Double elimination
Game 5 – Kentucky vs. South Carolina-Vanderbilt winner, 9:30 a.m.
Game 6 – LSU vs. Missouri-Texas A&M winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7 – Florida vs. Ole Miss-Auburn winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 8 – Arkansas vs. Georgia-MSU winner, 8 p.m.
May 25
Game 9 – Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 9:30 a.m.
Game 10 – Game 7 loser vs. game 8 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 11 – Game 5 winner vs. game 6 winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 12 – Game 7 winner vs. game 8 winner, 8 p.m.
May 26
Game 13 – Game 9 winner vs. Game 11 loser, 3 p.m.
Game 14 – Game 10 winner vs. Game 12 loser, 6:30 p.m.
May 27
Single elimination
Game 15 – Game 13 winner vs. Game 11 winner, Noon
Game 16 – Game 14 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 3:30 p.m.
May 28
Championship game, 2 p.m.