Vanderbilt’s freshman ace, Kumar Rocker, whiffed 11 batters and scattered three hits over 6.1 innings to lead the Commodores to a 4-1 victory over Michigan in Game 2 of the College Baseball World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Michigan (50-20) won Game 1, but #2 Vandy (58-12) evened the best-of-three series to stave off elimination.
Catcher Philip Clarke collected two hits including a solo home run to put Vandy ahead 4-0.
Rocker brings the heat but also throws a big-league breaking ball for strikes. He dominated over his first six innings yielding just one hit. He started to show some signs of weariness in the seventh inning, but Michigan could only get one run against him.
Rocker and reliever Tyler Brown combined for a four-hitter. Rocker won his second elimination game of the World Series for Vandy.
With one game remaining, both teams face a do-or-die situation.
Vandy knew they were in the best spot to win once they found out Kumar Rocker would take the mound. The 6-foot-4 freshman looks more like a football player than a baseball player. He’s been the Commodores’ most reliable and dominant pitcher in the postseason.
In the super regionals, Rocker threw a no-hitter while facing Duke in an elimination game.
Coming into the game, Rocker posted a 3-0 record in the College World Series allowing just three runs in nearly 24 innings of world.
“We had the right guy on the mound,” said Vanderbilt manager Tim Corbin. “I haven’t been around him that long, but I know the fibers of the kid. I know how he’s directed. Know how he thinks. Know how he attacks.”
Rocker (12-5) went after Michigan hitters with impunity. Rocker struck out 11 total. He scattered three hits and two walks. He got tagged for an earned run after Corbin took him out in the middle of the 7th inning.
After 104 fireball pitches from Rocker, Corbin handed the ball over to Tyler Brown. Brown allowed the inherited run to score, but shutdown the Wolverines allowing just one hit and one walk in 2.2 innings.
“He’s as advertised,” said Michigan manager Erik Bakich. “Rocker’s got a special breaking ball that’s tough to see. You try to sit on a fastball, and he throws enough of those breaking balls for strikes. You try to sit on the breaking ball, and he gets you with a 95 mph fastball.”
After starting the season 2-4, Rocker is now 10-1 over his last 11 starts. He improved to 4-0 in the College World Series with 44 strikeouts in 28 innings of work. His postseason ERA is also under 1.00.
On Deck: Game 3
The rubber match and finale will begin on Wednesday at 7pm ET. The winner of Game 3 will go on to win this year’s college championship.
Michigan is seeking to become the Big Ten’s first champion since 1966. Michigan has not won a baseball title since 1962.
Vanderbilt, one of the top teams from the SEC, previously won the College World Series in 2014. That is their only title but they were the runner-up in 2015. This is the fifth time they appeared in the World Series since 2011.
According to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, Vanderbilt is -220 to win Game 3. Michigan is a +180 underdog in the College World Series finale.