STARKVILLE--Friday afternoon's lid lifter to the Starkville Regional was supposed to be a showcase of two of the nation's top pitchers: Southeast Missouri's Joey Lucchesi and Mississippi State's Dakota Hudson.
But offense emerged as the top storyline, as Mississippi State held off Southeast Missouri 9-5 before 9,378 Dudy Noble Field.
MSU (42-16-1) twice battled back from deficits, including two homers from designated hitter Brent Rooker.
MSU will meet the winner of Cal State Fullerton and Louisiana Tech as the winner's bracket game will be played at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Redhawks face the loser of game two at 1:30 p.m.
"I felt like one of those right handers in the middle of the lineup was going to hit one out today if they could elevate it. Today, it was definitely Brent Rooker." MSU coach John Cohen said. "He took great swings when we needed it the most."
While Rooker delivered the big blows with two home runs and four RBI, Reid Humphreys went 3-for-4. Six batters in the Bulldog lineup notched multiple hits.
It wasn't just about MSU's strong hitting. The Bulldogs got a big lift from junior lefty Daniel Brown (4-2) out of the bullpen. He went 3.1 hitless innings and notched four strikeouts to get the win.
The Redhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second but Rooker made it 2-1 with his solo home run in the bottom of the inning.
After SEMO (39-20) extended its lead to 4-1 with a two-run inning in the third, Rooker struck again. The Bulldogs put two-straight hits on the board with two outs when Rooker knocked a ball to center that went off the fielder's glove at the wall, tying the game at four.
"I was talking to (Jacob Robson) before I went up there and both felt like he was going to try and flip a breaking ball on me to try and get a first pitch strike. I was sitting on it," Rooker said. "When it came off, I knew I hit it well. I actually thought he caught it rounding first base but was pretty excited when I found out it went over the fence."
Ryan Rigby allowed a leadoff walk in the sixth. It led to a two-out RBI single to give SEMO a 5-4 lead.
MSU rallied again in at the bottom of the inning, scoring three runs. Ryan Gridley's RBI single tied it. A fielder's choice from Hunter Stovall gave MSU its first lead and a wild pitch pushed the margin to 7-5.
"I was attacking the strike zone and they caught on, I guess," Lucchesi said. "They got a couple of good barrels and put some balls in play."
As Daniel Brown mowed through batters for the Bulldogs, their offense would give him some more insurance. A two-out double from Jake Mangum eventually led to a two-run inside-the-park home run from Jack Kruger.
Brown retired 10 of the 11 batters he faced in relief, allowing only a walk. Hudson lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up four hits,four runs and four walks
"There's no question that if we can extend our season, Dakota Hudson will be back out there," Cohen said. "I have every bit of faith that he's going to be back out there and pitch well for us again."