The Diamond Dog rightfielder posted his second 4-of-4 plate performance in as many days, this time at the expense of Marist in a 12-4 Mississippi State win. Rooker accounted for half of the team’s RBI with a two-run single, a one-run double; and finally his three-RBI blast over leftfield in the eighth inning.
That shot, his third homer of the weekend, gave Rooker 14 runs batted-in. Now in wins over Indiana State and Marist the junior Dog has reached in every plate appearance including a plunking and walk.
Rooker’s big bat provided more than enough Mississippi State margin, and support of RHP Graham Ashcraft. The freshman put in 5.0-plus innings for his second start and first win. Ashcraft had to scuffle some as the Red Foxes got to him for three of their runs on four hits and four walks, against four strikeouts.
This time though the Bulldog bullpen was up to a challenge, aided in no small part by Rooker and State expanding a fragile 6-4 lead after seven innings to the much safer margin.
Ashcraft (1-0) had his hands full immediately. 3B Dustin Skelton’s high throw put the leadoff Fox on, with Lazar making third on a single and passed ball. Greg Kocinski made it 1-0 with a grounder to second base.
Ashcraft came back with a tied game only to lose that. A leadoff walk and two-out plunking set up the top of Marist’s order. Consecutive singles meant a 3-1 Dog deficit, and Ashcraft did well to strand another trio of Foxes.
But when Ashcraft returned for the third it was with a lead. State’s first-inning score was provided by DH Hunter Vansau, making his first college start. He lifted a fly ball far enough to plate 2B Luke Alexander from third where Rooker’s initial single had advanced him.
Mississippi State also caught up and this time took a lead in the bottom of the second. The inning didn’t begin well with one out and what should have been an easy ground ball by C Josh Lovelady. The Marist shortstop mishandled it though and Fox starter John Parisi walked #9 batter 1B Cody Brown. He also drilled CF Jake Mangum on 0-1 count to load the bases.
Parisi was close to escaping after a called strikeout, then a low drive by SS Ryan Gridley that ought have ended the inning. Leftfielder Frankie Gregoire got up and over for the sinking liner only to let it go off his glove. Lovelady and Brown were running all the way and scored for the tied tally.
Two were still on also, and running flat-out as Rooker dropped a drive in rightfield for the 5-3 lead. Three innings later Rooker was back up with Gridley on first base and no outs. Gridley took off with Rooker contacting to cover.
Gridley had to skip the bouncer barely missing his cleats and regained stride and speed enough to go all the way home on a ground-ball double.
Parisi soldiered through 6.0 and left with the 6-3 deficit. He would take the loss with six hits, a walk and seven strikeouts.
A leadoff walk in top-sixth finished rookie Ashcraft’s stint at 95 pitches. RHP Jacob Barton walked a second Fox on, then coaxed comebacker that ought have turned two. But the throw pulled Gridley off the middle-bag and only the batter was out.
Barton was able to strand the two though with a couple of grounders. He nearly messed-up the second one which fortunately missed Barton’s behind-back attempt to stab, so it rolled cleanly to Gridley for the field and fire.
But in the seventh a leadoff single and one-out double by Kocinski cut a run off the margin. RHP Cole Gordon inherited the runner at second and kept him there with a strikeout and groundout.
Marist finally made a move in State’s seventh as righthander Brandon Bonomo replaced Parisi. He promptly walked Alexander on and was tagged on run-and-hit by Gridley for a single and Dogs on corners. Lefty Mike Coss took over and all-but-intentionally passed the red-hot Rooker.
It worked out with consecutive swinging strikeouts and a grounder leaving all bases filled and still just the two-run margin. But State kept it there. Gordon gave a leadoff walk in the eighth, and was taken deep by the #8 batter with the wind fortunately killing the drive short of the track. Price had been heating and was brought in to strike out Matt Rubayo and order-topper Anthony Lazar.
After giving up 16 combined runs in the previous two top-ninths a 6-4 lead wasn’t comfortable. Rooker and company made it much more so in this bottom-eighth. Brown singled with one out and Mangum doubled down the rightfield line. With a pair in scoring spots righty sidearmer Ryan Thomas entered…and was greeted by Alexander’s single for two RBI and a doubled lead of 8-4. It got worse, fast.
Gridley stroked a fourth single of the afternoon, and Rooker unloaded over leftfield for the three-run homer.
Just for good measure 3B Dustin Skelton got his first hit of the afternoon and drove in new DH Elijah MacNamee in the process.
Price needed 37 pitches to record five outs and pick up his first Mississippi State with a couple of walks and five strikeouts.
Gridley was 4-of-5 scoring three runs, while Mangum extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a sixth-inning single up the middle. He finished 2-of-4 with a pair of runs.