HOOVER, Ala. — Down 3-1 heading into the eighth inning against a streaking Arkansas team in the SEC Baseball Tournament, Mississippi State baseball’s leaders remained decidedly composed.
In the eighth, Mississippi State loaded the bases with no outs. The Bulldogs drove in one run but failed to tie the game. Going into the ninth, Mississippi State coach Andy Cannizaro worried his team might be running out of chances.
“There were certainly some situations where you just kept thinking we’re only going to get so many opportunities against a really good Arkansas baseball team,” Cannizaro said. “At some point, you wanted to see somebody come up to the plate and get a big hit.”
That guy was, who else, SEC player of the year Brent Rooker. With a runner on first, Rooker blasted a double to left-center field to drive the runner home. That triggered another bases-loaded situation; the Bulldogs drew a walk to win in the ninth to shock No. 4-seeded Arkansas.
“I think this win, the way the game went, has been pretty typical of how the game has gone this year,” Rooker said. “We didn’t necessarily execute as well as we wanted to early, but we never feel like we’re out of a game.”
There’s good reason for that feeling. No lead is safe against this Mississippi State squad. The Bulldogs have come from behind in an astonishing 22 of their 35 wins this season. Twelve of those wins came during SEC play, not even including this one.
“This victory today just epitomizes what our team is about,” Cannizaro said. “Our guys don’t quit. They keep on coming and keep fighting and throwing punches. I can’t speak highly enough about these guys. What a great day to be in the dugout.”
To some extent, it was surprising that it took so long to lock up this game. Mississippi State outhit Arkansas 12 to 5. Arkansas committed both of the game’s errors. Bulldogs players reached base 16 times to Arkansas’ 11.
“We talk all the time, when they shut that scoreboard down, the only thing we care about is who has more runs than the other team,” Cannizaro said. “It’s just been a resiliency all season long. Our guys truly don’t quit and don’t give up.”
In addition to opening the door a little wider for Mississippi State in the SEC Baseball Tournament, the win keeps alive hope of being a Regional round host in the NCAA Tournament. Things don’t get any easier though – No. 1-seeded Florida is next on the schedule.