STARKVILLE — Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen knew it would be a long shot for a ball to get out of Dudy Noble Field on Sunday night.
Not only was the wind was blowing in, but the air also was heavier after a two-hour, 10-minute rain delay. As a result, Cohen, who played for the Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field, realized his offense was going to have to eschew the home run and take another approach to win.
“I thought our kids did a great job of being ground-ball, line-drive oriented and just seizing the moment when we had some opportunities to score,” Cohen said.
Top-seeded and No. 4 MSU had 10 hits — nine singles — and took advantage of three errors to defeat third-seeded Louisiana Tech 4-0 Sunday night to win the Starkville Regional.
No. 6 national seed MSU (44-16-1) will play Louisiana-Lafayette or Arizona this weekend in the Starkville Super Regional.
In the second inning, Brent Rooker scored from second base after catcher Michael Deceglie hit Ryan Gridley in the back while trying to turn a 1-2-3 double play to make it 1-0. Gavin Collins’ single to right field added to the lead, and Rooker slapped an RBI single to left field in the third to make it 3-0.
On Friday, MSU had 14 hits and Rooker hit two home runs in a 9-5 victory against Southeast Missouri State. MSU had nine hits — six singles — in a 4-1 victory against Cal State Fullerton Saturday.
“As an offense, we’re willing to do what it takes to win the game,” Rooker said. “If that’s hitting doubles in the gaps and hitting balls over the fence, we’re going to do that. If it takes putting bunts down, moving guys over, and playing a little small ball to get the runs we need, that’s what we’re going to do.”
MSU scored the final run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Rooker, who was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player.
Jacob Robson led MSU with three hits, all infield singles. His second came with two outs in the third and kept the frame alive.
“(Robson) was pretty symbolic of what we were trying to do,” Cohen said. “Robbie doesn’t hit a ball out of the infield and gets three hits. He had three great, pressure at-bats that elongated innings.”
Nathaniel Lowe had two hits, including an infield single in the sixth, while Jake Mangum had the only extra-base hit — a double to left-center field in the third. Mangum scored on Collins’ single.
Louisiana Tech, which beat Cal State Fullerton 6-2 earlier in the day, had two hits — a bloop single and a hard ground ball to center field by Cody Daigle.
MSU has seven players hitting .300 or better, and has a team batting average of .312 and 45 home runs, but it showed in its first three games of the 2016 NCAA tournament that it can adapt and play small ball, too.
“As a team we were really excited to win this,” Rooker said. “This was a big regional with three really good teams. We had to play really well to win it, and we did that. But we talked after the game, and we have a bigger mission. Winning a regional was not our goal at the beginning of the year. Wining a national championship is, and we haven’t accomplished that yet.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.
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