Bulldogs claim Governor's Cup

Bulldogs celebrate with Governor's Cup after beating Rebels.
Staff Writer

Brent Rooker hadn’t hit a home run in his last 25 at-bats coming into Tuesday night.
He was batting just .154 over his last seven games.
So much for all that.
Rooker busted out of his slump, drilled a three-run bomb for his 17th home run of the season and led Mississippi State to a 4-2 win over instate rival Ole Miss in the annual Governor’s Cup game at Trustmark Park.
“Baseball is such a game of momentum,” MSU head coach Andy Cannizaro said. “You want to do anything you can to capitalize when you get opportunities. Brent Rooker had an outstanding at-bat where he kept battling and fouling pitches off and finally got something he could handle and he crushed it.”
The last week and a half hadn’t gone so well for Rooker before Tuesday’s big blast. Since batting .450 for the season going into action on April 14, Rooker’s average had dipped 50 points. The slide continued in his first two at-bats against Ole Miss (25-16) as he flied out and struck out.
Then, in the fifth inning with the contest still scoreless, Rooker stepped to the plate with runners at first and second and drilled a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left-centerfield.
“I got a fastball,” Rooker said. “In my previous at-bat, I got two strikes on me and punched out on the fastball. I figured (Ole Miss starting pitcher Greer Holston) was going to try to do the same thing. I was on it. It was in the same spot as the one I swung and missed at. They beat me once, but I was on it there and caught a barrel.”
Rooker wasn’t done producing for MSU (29-14) just yet. After Ole Miss closed its deficit to 3-2 with run-scoring hits from Cooper Johnson and Tate Blackman in the sixth, Rooker led off the eighth inning with a double. Ryan Gridley followed with an RBI single to provide the Bulldogs with a much-needed insurance run.
Rooker and company’s production made a winner out of MSU starting pitcher Denver McQuary (1-1). The freshman right-hander battled control issues, but for the most part pitched around them and settled in. McQuary ended up going 5 1/3 innings, walking five and giving up five hits, but striking out four and allowing just the two Ole Miss runs.
“(Cannizaro) came out there (to the mound) and talked to me and something just kind of hit me,” McQuary said. “I had to trust my pitches. He told me my stuff was plenty good enough and after I kind of thought about that for a second and slowed down and cleared my mind, I got a lot better.”
The Bulldog bullpen took care of the rest. Peyton Plumlee, Trysten Barlow, Jacob Billingsley and Riley Self combined to pitch scoreless baseball for the final 3 2/3 innings. Self notched his second save.
Like McQuary before it, the MSU bullpen worked out of multiple jams. In all, Ole Miss stranded 13 base runners in the game.
Ole Miss’ inability to cash in, plus Rooker’s big night, gave the Bulldogs their fourth win over the Rebels this season. MSU swept Ole Miss in a three-game series in Oxford from March 30 through April 1.
By capturing the Governor’s Cup, it’s the first time since 1997 MSU has swept Ole Miss in the regular season series and won the annual non-conference affair.
That gives MSU plenty of momentum heading into this weekend’s three-game series against Auburn. It also doesn’t hurt that State’s big bopper seems to be bopping once again.
“That’s baseball,” Rooker said of his slump the last few games. “I’m not going to get two or three hits every game. Eventually, I’m going to go through some valleys where I don’t hit as well as I want to. I knew if I stuck to my approach and stuck to my swing and stuck with what I was doing all year, I’d eventually come out of it. Fortunately it came at a big time for the team.”