Brent Rooker showed why he’s regarded as one of the top hitters in the Southeastern Conference.
The junior outfielder for Mississippi State went 4-for-4 with three home runs and six RBI in a 10-6 victory over visiting Kentucky on Saturday night to even the series at 1-1. The finale is Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Rooker is batting .447 this season with 15 homers and 56 RBI.
Rooker’s home runs came in consecutive at-bats. His first was a grand slam to left field off Kentucky starting pitcher Zach Logue (5-2) in the second inning. He homered to center off Logue his next time up in the fourth, then took UK reliever Chris Machamer deep in the sixth.
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Kentucky Coach Nick Mingione would not give Rooker a chance to hit a fourth home run in a row. With first base open, he ordered an intentional walk in the eighth inning to a chorus of boos from Bulldogs fans at Dudy Noble Field.
The next batter, Ryan Gridley, came through with a two-run single to stretch the Bulldogs’ lead to 10-4.
“I really wasn’t expecting (the intentional walk) in the last at-bat because I didn’t think they wanted to load up the bases,” Rooker said. “Gridley’s having a phenomenal year. I didn’t think they wanted to do that. And they did, and he made ’em pay, which was a huge part of the game, obviously.”
Logue, who entered with a team-best 2.22 ERA, allowed 10 hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Kentucky led 3-0 after one half-inning. Tristan Pompey hit a two-run homer to right center, and Kole Cottam added an RBI double.
The lead was erased when Rooker came to bat in the second. His slam made it 6-2, and the Bulldogs never trailed after that.
Trailing 10-4 in the ninth, Kentucky made it interesting, loading the bases with nobody out. Cottam delivered a two-run double, but freshman reliever Riley Self struck out Luke Becker, Riley Mahan and Marcus Carson to end the game.
Cottam went 3-for-5 with four RBI, and Pompey went 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI.
Kentucky, ranked No. 8 in the nation, dropped to 22-10 overall and 8-3 in the SEC. Mississippi State is 21-12, 7-4.
Sunday’s game is available online on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.