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.
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.