Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker was chosen SEC Player of the Year for baseball earlier this week.
Wednesday afternoon at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, Rooker began putting his stamp on the league’s postseason tournament.
Rooker hit a two-run first-inning home run and had three hits overall as No. 5 seed MSU finished the first round of the tournament with a 3-0 win over No. 12 seed Georgia.
MSU (35-22) will advance to play No. 4 seed Arkansas (39-15) at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in second round of the event. With Wednesday’s win, MSU now advances to the double-elimination part of the bracket. All of Thursday’s tournament play will be broadcast nationally on the SEC Network.
“An extra day of rest really helped Konnor (Pilkington),” MSU assistant coach Gary Henderson said. “In a tournament, you need to save some pitching and it was great that Konnor went deep in the game and Riley made quick work out there. We left some runners on, but overall it was a good way to start the tournament.”
While Rooker had a starring role in Wednesday’s victory, Konnor Pilkington did his part as well.
The sophomore left-hander from Hurley threw eight innings of shutout ball, allowing five hits with six strikeouts on 100 pitches. Riley Self inherited two base runners in the ninth inning but closed out his fifth save of the season.
“Locating the ball down in the zone really helped me today,” Pilkington said. “I just tried to stay in a rhythm. Things got better after struggling the first couple of innings. Each game, I just try to give my team all that I have got. This win gives us a lot of momentum.”
In the MSU first inning, Ryan Gridley reached as a hit batsman. Rooker followed with his 21st home run of the season – a massive shot to left field.
The Maroon and White again got the first two on in the second inning when Hunter Vansau and Elijah MacNamee had back-to-back hits. A sacrifice bunt was followed by a strikeout and popout ending that threat.
In the MSU third inning, the Bulldogs made it three straight frames to reach two in a row when Rooker and Jake Mangum had back-to-back singles. Hunter Stovall followed with a one-out RBI-single to score Rooker.
From there, Pilkington (7-5) was in control. Georgia had a hit in each of the first two innings. Pilkington would then retire 15 straight before Georgia added its third hit in the eighth inning.
Georgia (25-32) opened the ninth inning with back-to-back hits but Self quickly got a double play ball and groundout to close out the victory.
MSU finished with 11 hits, while stranding 12 base runners. Rooker had three hits, while Mangum and Gridley each had two hits.