Brent Rooker put on an offensive display that many of us have never seen at Dudy Noble Field Saturday night against the Kentucky Wildcats. The talented OF/1B went 4-4 with 3 home runs, 6 RBIs, a single, and was finally intentionally walked in his last plate appearance with runners on 1st and 2nd.
Fans need to start expecting a lot more of what we saw in the last at bat of the night. As good as Rooker has been, and as hot as he currently is, coaches aren’t even going to give Brent Rooker the opportunity to do anything against them. So will we see his numbers start to drop off drastically since he won’t be given a chance to hit anything?
It’s possible, but it’s up to Ryan Gridley to make sure it doesn’t.
At the beginning of the season, Head Coach Andy Cannizaro put Brent Rooker at the cleanup spot to try to give him a chance to hit with as many runners on as possible. He was producing then, but due to the early struggles of the rest of the lineup, teams began to pitch around him often. Cannizaro knew something had to be done, so he moved him to the two slot in the lineup.
It’s rare to see such a prodigious hitter like Brent Rooker hitting as the number two hitter. They are almost always in the three or four spot. But the best combination of having runners on base for Rooker and protection behind him is batting him second with Ryan Gridley behind him.
The only way Brent Rooker will get to see any decent pitches to hit is for Ryan Gridley to continue his stellar play. He’s quietly having an amazing season himself, but it is somewhat lost in the unprecedented success in the BBCOR era that Brent Rooker is having. Ryan Gridley has five home runs, a .511 slugging percentage, a .404 on base percentage, and is second on the team in RBIs with 26.
Ryan Gridley will need to do what he did late in the game last night against Kentucky every time the opposing team chooses to walk Brent Rooker ahead of him. With runners on 1st and 2nd, Nick Mingione decided to walk Rooker and load the bases instead of risk yet another home run. Gridley answered by ripping a single up the middle, scoring two runs.
If Ryan Gridley makes opposing teams pay every time they walk Rooker, then coaches will hesitate to put Rooker on base intentionally. If we want to see Brent Rooker become the Golden Spikes winner and go down with one of the greatest seasons Mississippi State baseball fans have ever seen, then it will take Ryan Gridley to keep producing behind him.