The Diamond Dogs avoided any and all traps. After spotting the visiting Tigers a run, Mississippi State got down to business and crushed the visitors 11-1. They hit very well, pitched well enough, and played nearly-errorless defense in a SEC-like effort.
“We were focused on the present and came out here and played really well,” said Rooker. His coach agreed.
“I thought they had a very workman-like attitude about this ball game,” John Cohen said. “Going into the biggest weekend of the year for us.” That would be the upcoming visit from Texas A&M in a battle of the Western Division leaders.
It is Super Bulldog Weekend as well. No wonder there were concerns a hot State squad, back from taking down then-#1-ranked Florida, might go on a midweek cruise control. They didn’t. Especially so on offense.
“It was big for us to just play the game,” LF Reid Humphreys said. “We swung the bats well.”
Humphreys definitely did. His four plate appearances produced a double, two singles and a walk; a pair of RBI and three runs scored. Humphreys accounted for State’s first run of the evening to tie it up in the second inning. Then again within seconds it was a 2-1 lead.
Because Humphreys was able to jog home from first base ahead of Rooker who’d just slugged a two-run homer. Rooker would finish with a 2-of-3 line himself, including a seventh-inning shot that smacked the padding a couple steps inside the left foul-pole. It looked like a homer off the bat initially, only to miss by half-a-bat’s length.
“A lot of guys were messing with me,” Rooker said. “I was trying to drop so far down to stay under that drop-down guy.”
Two more balls left the yard off Bulldog bats, in fact both hit by third basemen. In the State fifth it was 3B Gavin Collins crushing a two-out solo shot over leftfield. In the eighth his replacement, 3B Luke Alexander, got all of the ball and took it out to left as well. He has 1B Nate Lowe on base ahead of him making it a two-run blast.
In all eight Dogs combined for 15 hits with the three home runs and as many doubles. Memphis managed just five hits all evening as seven State pitchers came close to shutting the visitors out. They did shut them down after giving up a second-inning RBI-single to Jacob Elliott, who would account for three of Memphis’ safeties. The run was by Chris Carrier who had led off the inning with a double.
That was off State starter RHP Keegan James. He worked 1.1 initial innings with the two hits and run, striking out a pair. After RHP Jacob Billingsley threw five-straight balls in relief, LHP Kale Breaux took over to strand a pair and put in another two innings.
Breaux’s stint saw a walk and three strikeouts as he got the decision to go to 2-1. RHP Ryan Cyr worked the next 2.0 turns with a hit, walk, and strikeout. From there Coach Wes Johnson gave an inning apiece to LHP Ethan Small, LHP Daniel Brown, and LHP Vance Tatum. All the moundsmen combined for nine strikeouts and five walks.
“I thought we did a really good job on the mound, all those guys we ran out there,” Cohen said.
Memphis starter James Muse (0-3) took the loss on 2.1 innings with four runs allowed on five hits, walking three and fanning just one.
With the 24th victory the Bulldogs have already matched 2015’s entire win total. That’s a minor point by now. What counts more is that at 8-4, and already equaling last season’s tally for SEC wins, the Bulldogs have the West lead. A&M is right behind at 7-5.
So with a showdown series ahead, yes, there was definitely trap-potential. The Bulldogs didn’t take a wrong step.
“They didn’t look past these guys,” Cohen said.