If Vanderbilt wanted to make a statement in its NCAA tournament opener, Kumar Rocker helped the Commodores do so.
The Vanderbilt ace struck out nine batters and surrendered just two hits in the Commodores' 10-0 victory over Presbyterian on Friday in the Nashville Regional.
Vanderbilt scored three runs in the first and three more in the second, and that was more than enough support for Rocker, who retired 14 of 15 batters between the first and sixth innings. He even recorded an assist on a dropped third strike in the top of the fourth inning.
Kumar Rocker, completing his own K (dropped 3rd). 😀 pic.twitter.com/votMFZdxU0— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 5, 2021
Fourth-seeded Vanderbilt faces Georgia Tech in its second regional game on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The regular season
It looked as though it might be another frustrating start -- the fourth straight, actually -- for Vanderbilt ace Jack Leiter but luckily starts aren't judged by just the first four pitches.
After walking the leadoff batter on four straight pitches, Leiter settled in and looked like himself for the first time in over a month. In a return to form outing, Leiter shutdown the Ole Miss bats over six innings while allowing just one run to lead the No. 2 Commodores past the No. 14 Rebels, 13-2. The win was his first since April 2.
It was clear early on that Leiter had all of his pitches working and the lull in his season, which saw a no decision, two losses and a scratched start, had reached its end.
Jack Leiter, 95mph ⛽️ pic.twitter.com/1Li5S0T8To— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 15, 2021
Jack Leiter, 82mph Back Foot Slider...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/h2j1glK0tX— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 15, 2021
The win moved Leiter's record to 8-2 on the season and his 13 strikeouts in the victory pushed his season total to 119, one ahead of teammate and fellow top prospect Kumar Rocker.
Leiter's performance helped the Commodores back to their winning ways after a loss in Rocker's start on Friday.
Typically when Rocker has given up multiple runs in a start, which has been rare in the 2021 season, the Commodore offense has come to his rescue.
Friday night was the exception to that rule.
Rocker's second loss of the season came in a 3-1 defeat at Ole Miss. The Rebels tagged Rocker for three runs, including two home runs, over the first three innings to take an early lead that ended up being insurmountable.
Despite the early outburst from the Rebels, Rocker settled in and threw four scoreless innings before his start concluded. He finished the night with seven innings pitched while allowing three runs on five hits and striking out eight.
Unfortunately for Rocker, he was outdueled by Ole Miss starter Doug Nikhazy, who finished with 10 strikeouts over seven innings of 1-run baseball.
Despite the recent struggles from both starters, the duo's combined record is 19-4 this season.
Leiter and Rocker, the 2019 College World Series Most Outstanding Player, check in at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in Kiley McDaniel's draft rankings.
Best of the season so far
Kumar Rocker, Filthy Slider.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 7, 2021
7th K thru 2 innings. 😳
Yes, 7Ks in 2 innings.
And the hat tip. 🤣 pic.twitter.com/B6U4tzgn6E
Kumar Rocker. Filthy slider with depth low and away.— hashim (@___hash___) May 1, 2021
CJ Rodriguez guns down a would-be base stealer from his knees to end the inning. pic.twitter.com/uGG3MoTkwX
Jack Leiter, 97mph ⛽️— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 25, 2021
100th K of the Season. 💯 pic.twitter.com/3wsxDamA8P
Kumar Rocker, Filthy Slider...and K Strut.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 24, 2021
Ok, maybe he just fell. pic.twitter.com/Vp1CgwzfgE
Jack Leiter, 94mph Fastball and 82mph Slider, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/A1RvcHDCM0— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 17, 2021
Jack Leiter, Wicked Front Door Cutter. ✂️🚪— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 3, 2021
12th K thru 5 pic.twitter.com/v1AXA7vbJp
Bases loaded and one out? No problem for Jack Leiter.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 3, 2021
We're on Jack Leiter Time.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 27, 2021
It's just delaying the inevitable. pic.twitter.com/E5WCSkd9c1
Remaining Vanderbilt schedule
June 5: vs. Georgia Tech, 7 p.m.
June 6: NCAA regional, TBD