OMAHA, Neb. (WTVF) — Kumar Rocker to the rescue again. Just like he did when facing elimination in the Super Regional, the freshman fireballer delivered a gem Tuesday as Vanderbilt beat Michigan 4-1 to force a decisive game three of the College World Series finals Wednesday.
Rocker, who struck out 19 batters in a no-hitter of Duke earlier in the month, has now helped the Vandy Boys fight off elimination twice this postseason, and now they will have the chance to win the program’s second national title.
Michigan, which has had the most productive offense in the College World Series, was completely overwhelmed by Rocker’s mid-90’s fastball and devastating breaking ball.
He struck out five of the first six batters he faced and 11 in all before finally being lifted with one out in the seventh after throwing his 104th pitch. He was electric and breathed life into a Vanderbilt team that took a punch from a red-hot Michigan team in game one.
Even Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said his veteran team was a little tight at the outset Tuesday with their season in the balance. It was Rocker, one of the youngest players on the team that allowed them to settle in.
The Commodores stranded runners in the second, third and fourth innings before finally drawing first blood in the fifth when Austin Martin’s swinging bunt brought home the game’s first run.
Vandy grinded out two more runs in the sixth after a leadoff single from Pat DeMarco was followed by a walk to Stephen Scott. A sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third and both runners later scored on wild pitches.
Phillip Clarke’s ninth home run of the year in the seventh made it 4-0, which was more than enough for Rocker who allowed just one run on a RBI single after he gave way to closer Tyler Brown in the seventh.
Brown did his part, retiring eight of the nine batters he faced following that initial hit, for his 17th save of the year.
It sets up a winner-take-all game three Wednesday for a national championship. A moment Vandy players say they never doubted would come even after their game one loss.
This team’s goal from day one has been to win a national championship. Now they have the chance.