Vanderbilt Baseball hosts Oklahoma State in scrimmage

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Vanderbilt Baseball hosts Oklahoma State in scrimmage

Photo by Ziyi Liu.

Photo by Ziyi Liu.

Ziyi Liu

Photo by Ziyi Liu.

Ziyi Liu

Ziyi Liu

Photo by Ziyi Liu.

Betsy Goodfriend, Senior Writer

Baseball is here, y’all.

Vanderbilt and Oklahoma played the first of two scrimmages this weekend at Hawkins Field on Saturday and Sunday. Oklahoma State is a perennial College World Series contender, just like the Commodores, so it was a great opportunity to see what Vanderbilt’s squad looks like after fall practice.

Head coach Tim Corbin said “This is kind of a first glance for a lot of kids against competition, and we’re getting to see them just like [the fans] are.”

The scrimmage was broken up into four quarters of seven innings, with two quarters played each day. The scoring was made up by both coaches, and teams could earn a point by turning a double play, pitching less than 12 pitches in an inning, or having a runner in scoring position for over 25 pitches, among others.

In the first quarter, a few Commodores shined. Vanderbilt won the first quarter 17-6. In the second quarter, Kumar Rocker showed why he was one of the best high school pitchers in the country. Rocker and fellow freshmen Tate Kolwyck and Justyn-Henry Malloy took over the second quarter. Vanderbilt took the second quarter 21-14.

Here is a breakdown of what some of the key Commodores showed in Saturday’s action: 

P Tyler Brown

Brown has a nasty slider that he utilized on his way to six strikeouts in three scoreless and hitless innings of work. He frustrated the Cowboys with his slider, which most batters completely whiffed on, and a well-controlled fastball. The sophomore right-hander only pitched 37.1 innings last season, but with this performance, he should get more innings in 2019.

Corbin said, “From a pitching standpoint, I think he’s certainly more advanced than he was at this point last year.”

P Mason Hickman

Hickman pitched three hitless innings in relief of Brown. He struck out three batters and walked one. Hickman, who was a Freshman All-American, should improve on his 5.21 ERA from 2018. Hickman used all of his 6-6 frame to put some serious heat on his fastballs.

P Justin Willis

Oklahoma State’s batters were brought to their knees by Willis, who struck out two in his only inning of work. The movement on his pitches fooled the three batters he faced. Willis allowed nine runs in 10.2 innings last year.

CF Isaiah Thomas

Welcome to college baseball, Isaiah. He started in center field over a slew of veterans and looked comfortable in black and gold. He hit a double to left field in the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch in his first at-bat. Thomas was one of the best outfielders in the country coming out of high school, and he has the potential to start in the spring. In the seventh inning, he tracked down a long fly ball in the sun.

OF Pat DeMarco

DeMarco earned a walk in the second inning of the first quarter, but he was picked off at first base a few pitches later. In the sixth, he found the gap in left-center field and used his speed for a double. He scored on Julian Infante’s RBI single. He played the two balls that came to him in right field well and caught both. A Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American last year, DeMarco seems to be picking up right where he left off.

He was one of three players to play both quarters for Vanderbilt, and he delivered in both of them. He went hit a double in the 11th inning and scored from third base on a wild pitch. DeMarco led off the 14th with a solo homerun. His homer cleared the towering left field wall with ease. He hit 11 home runs in 2018 and will be looking to improve on that number in the spring.

1B Julian Infante

After posting just a .193 batting average in 2018, Infante looked much more confident at the plate. Infante collected his first hit on a dribbler to third base in the second inning. He struck out swinging in the fourth inning, but he made up for it with an RBI single just past the glove of the shortstop two innings later.

“He’s worked very hard to put himself in a competitive position,” Corbin said of Infante. “This was a good start for him.”

P Kumar Rocker

Rocker made his case to be a starter in the spring with an absolutely dominant performance. Rocker struck out eight in a row and walked one batter in three innings. Rocker showed no sign of nerves as he went through the Cowboys’ lineup. He has a big build, which he uses to turn up the heat and fan batters. He can also produce movement on his slider to devastate hitters.

Rocker said, “My slider was working well for me. I snuck one changeup in there.”

Corbin said of Rocker, “I’m just happy that he was able to command his pitches. He had good poise to him for a young kid.”

INF Tate Kolwyck

Another freshman battling for playing time is Kolwyck, who hit an RBI single up the middle to score Walker Grisanti in the 10th inning. He also reached on an error in the 12th. He advanced to third base on a Jayson Gonzalez single and scored on a wild pitch soon after. Kolwyck looked comfortable even when Corbin’s defensive shifts moved him to the other side of second base.

1B Justyn-Henry Malloy

Malloy earned the start at first base and made some incredible defensive plays. With the bases loaded and two outs, Malloy dove to catch a liner from Trevor Boone and ended Oklahoma State’s threat in the 11th inning. He also helped turn a double play with Grisanti the next inning. In the top of the 13th inning, Malloy hit an RBI triple to score Stephen Scott, who hit a single to lead off the inning.

RF Walker Grisanti

The senior did not let the freshmen have all the fun in the second quarter. Grisanti made a heads-up play in right field to force a double play in the 12th. He ran to catch a pop up in shallow right field, then immediately threw to first base to tag the runner out. Grisanti scored in the 10th after reaching base on a tough walk. In the 13th inning, he hit an RBI single up the middle to score Malloy.

3B Jayson Gonzalez

In the 12th inning, Gonzalez roped a hit to the gap in right center field to advance Kolwyck to third base. The next inning, he advanced on a throwing error by the third baseman and scored on Austin Martin’s two-run double. Defensively, he made an long, incredible throw to first base to get a critical out in the 13th inning.

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