Bulldogs rally to win NCAA Regional opener

Mississippi State's Brent Rooker (19) left, is congratulated by teammate Gavin Collins (8), following Rooker's second home run against Southeast Missouri State. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker (19) left, is congratulated by teammate Gavin Collins (8), following Rooker’s second home run against Southeast Missouri State. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

STARKVILLE – Top-seeded Mississippi State proved it has more star power than only ace pitcher Dakota Hudson on Friday.

With Hudson struggling, the Bulldogs’ bats and bullpen picked up the projected first round draft pick rallying back to defeat No. 4 seed Southeast Missouri State 9-5 in Game 1 of the Starkville Regional.

“We never get uncomfortable or sped up,” said MSU designated hitter Brent Rooker. “We stay within our game plan. We know our bullpen and hitters are good enough to battle back and be able to compete until the last out and we did that.”

Hudson gave up four runs on four hits, four walks and only had two strikeouts before being lifted after just 3 1/3 innings.

MSU (42-16-1) fell behind 4-1 but was able to tie things up with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the third. Nathaniel Lowe and Gavin Collins kept the inning alive with two-out singles to set the table for a towering three-run blast to center by Rooker, his second home run of the game.

The Diamond Dogs also scratched across three more runs to take the lead in the sixth and chase SEMO’s top arm and the nation’s strikeout leader, Joey Lucchesi, in the process.

Lucchesi (10-5) surrendered a season-worst 10 hits, five earned runs and a season-low four strikeouts in a starting effort.

“There is no soft spots in their lineup and it wears pitching staffs,” said SEMO coach Steve Bieser. “Joey’s a fine pitcher and has done a fine job all season long. He’s a competitor but I do think their lineup really wore on him.”

Mississippi State ended the day with 14 hits led by Rooker’s 2-for-4 performance and four RBIs.

Reid Humphreys was 3-for-4 with three singles while Lowe, Ryan Gridley and Jake Mangum were also 2-for-4 with Mangum adding a double and Gridley driving in a run.

Jack Kruger finished 2-for-5 and gave the Bulldogs some insurance runs in the eighth with an inside the park, two-run homer.

Ryan Rigby relieved Hudson for 2 1/3 innings before giving way to Daniel Brown, who improved to 4-2 with the win. Brown logged 3 1/3 shutout and no-hit frames with four strikeouts to finish things off.

“We preach strike one here so I really wanted to attack and get them in that quick hole so that maybe they’d chase late,” Brown said.

The Redhawks had seven hits led by Branden Boggetto, who was 2-for-3 before leaving the game in the fifth inning with a hand injury. Boggetto is expected to miss the rest of the regional.

MSU will face the winner between No. 2 seed Cal State Fullerton and No. 3 seed Louisiana Tech at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. That game was halted due to rain with both teams scoreless in the bottom of the seventh and will resume at 10 a.m. Saturday.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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