Another month is left until the finalists for the 2017 C Spire Ferriss Trophy is announced, but the race might as well be called right now. If this was a heavyweight fight, the official would need to call it for a technical knockout.
Mississippi State University outfielder Brent Rooker is putting up unreal numbers. He is having the type of season that will be remembered for years in the rich MSU baseball lore.
Make no mistake: Four-year universities and colleges in our state have plenty of great baseball players.
One example is Jackson State University Tigers third baseman Lamar Briggs, who leads the SWAC in hits (53), doubles (11), and total bases (70). He is fifth in batting average, third in runs batted in and fourth in runs scored.
In a normal year, Briggs would be a great candidate for the Ferriss Trophy. His play is one of the reasons that JSU is 26-11 overall and 12-3 in SWAC play, just behind Alabama State University in the conference standings.
The University of Southern Mississippi is leading C-USA with a 10-2 mark in conference and 26-7 record overall. But the Golden Eagles lead just four statistical categories in the conference in hitting.
USM outfielder Matt Wallner leads C-USA in slugging percentage (.699) and home runs (11). He is fourth in on-base percentage and eighth in RBI in the conference. Teammate Dylan Burdeaux is having a strong season for the Golden Eagles as well.
But Rooker’s numbers blow everyone away. He is leading the SEC in batting average (.448), hits (56), RBI (56), doubles (19), home runs (15), total bases (126), stolen bases (14), stolen base attempts (18), slugging percentage (1.008) and on-base percentage (.548).
Last week the baseball must have looked like a beach ball to Rooker. He went 10 for 16 at the plate with a .625 batting average and drove in 13 RBI, scored nine runs, and hit six home runs, earned five walks, one double, and a pitch hit him three times in five games.
Rooker’s efforts landed him SEC Player of the Week honors for the second time in a row. This is the first time a player has won the award in back-to-back weeks since University of Georgia player Gordon Beckham in 2008, and Rooker is the first MSU player to accomplish the feat since Rex Buckner in 1992.
This is the third time this season Rooker has been named SEC Player of the Week. With the season he is having, it almost seems like he is a shoe-in for SEC Player of the Year.
In the preseason, MSU was picked to finish fourth in the Western Division and seventh in the conference. Right now the Bulldogs are tied for first in the division and the conference with an 8-4 mark.
The University of Kentucky, Auburn University and the University of Arkansas are tied for first place in the conference with MSU. Auburn and Arkansas are tied with the Bulldogs for first place in the West.
The University of Mississippi happened to be picked ahead of the Bulldogs in the preseason predictions. Right now, the Rebels are 6-6 in the conference, a full two games behind the Bulldogs.
Louisiana State University was the preseason pick to finish first in the west. LSU is 7-5 in SEC play a game back of the Bulldogs in the current standings.
Rooker’s play is a major reason why MSU is overachieving from the preseason prediction. If he can keep this level of play up, it will make the Bulldogs dangerous in the postseason.