Mississippi State's Brent Rooker leads the Southeastern Conference in nine offensive categories and is on track to have the greatest season by any player in the conference since new bat standards went into effect in 2011.
The redshirt junior first baseman might look back at Saturday as his signature performance. He hit three homers, including a grand slam, and went 4 for 4 with six RBIs in a 10-6 win over Kentucky.
''It's still a little bit of a blur,'' Rooker said Monday. ''To hit one home run in a game is always fun. Hitting two is special. Hitting three is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Each home run was its own separate event. I went up to the plate after each one thinking, 'No way I can do that again,' and then it happened.''
Rooker entered this week leading the SEC with a .448 batting average, 15 homers, 19 doubles, 56 RBIs, 1.008 slugging percentage, .548 on-base percentage, 56 hits, 126 total bases and 14 steals. Nationally, he's first in RBIs, slugging and total bases and second in average, home runs and hits.
Rooker started the season batting cleanup but moved up to the 2-hole because, with hitters struggling behind him in the order, he was getting pitched around. Few teams have the 1-2-3 punch of the Bulldogs now, with leadoff batter Jake Mangum (.374), Rooker and Ryan Gridley (.348).
The Bulldogs (22-12) won two of three against Kentucky and are tied for the SEC West lead with Arkansas and Auburn at 8-4.
''I've got a good supporting cast around me that's allowing me to put up some numbers,'' Rooker said. ''I've got guys on base all the time I can drive in, and guys are hitting great behind me, and it makes people pitch to me a little bit. Give credit where credit is due. As a team we're performing really well, which has allowed me to continue to see the ball really well.''
Rooker, who has six multi-homer games in his career, became the first Mississippi State player to hit three in a game since 2010. Rooker's first two homers against Kentucky came on a fastball and changeup from left-hander Zach Logue and his third on a fastball from Chris Machamer.
The feat was enhanced because it happened on Super Bulldog Weekend, the annual three-day extravaganza when all the spring sports teams play at home and the spring football game is held.
''He's confident. He has a plan. He's executing his game plan right now to perfection,'' Bulldogs coach Andy Cannizaro said. ''Being able to do what he did, homer three times in front of 13,000 people here on Super Bulldog Weekend, is probably one of the coolest moments in Mississippi State baseball history, and you're talking about a program with so much pride and tradition.''
A look around the country:
Top-ranked Oregon State swept Utah to extend its winning streak to 23 games, tying the Pac-12 record set by Arizona State in 1988. The Beavers can break the record Tuesday at home against Gonzaga.
With 48 runs against Boston College, North Carolina set a school record for runs in a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series. The Tar Heels won 17-7, 16-4 and 15-3. Their previous high three-game ACC total was 45 runs against Duke in 2002.
Youngstown State junior first baseman Andrew Kendrick hit two home runs against Wright State on Sunday and set the school record for homers in a season, with 13 in just 24 games. Kendrick leads the nation with 0.54 homers a game, and his total ranks fourth.
DOUBLING THEIR PLEASURE
Air Force's Adam Groesbeck on Friday became the seventh player in the nation with six hits in a game. Four of those hits against UNLV were doubles, also matching the national season high. The Falcons' 10 doubles in the 23-9 win tied the 29-year-old school record.
If nothing else, Portland's Kevin Baker gets credit for the toughest no-decision of the season. Baker pitched 10 shutout innings against Pepperdine on Sunday. He allowed seven hits, walked none and struck out 11 in an efficient 115-pitch outing. Portland won 2-1 on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 16th. Marty Luckenbach followed Baker and worked five shutout innings. The win went to Tate Budnick who worked the top of the 16th for his first win against six losses.
This version corrects spelling of Jake Mangum's last name in the fifth paragraph.