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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Kumar Rocker pitches complete game as Vanderbilt takes first game against Mississippi State

The Commodores scratched across four runs in the fourth-inning, swinging all the momentum back to them and providing all the run support they needed for Kumar Rocker.
Kumar Rocker pitches against Mississippi State on April 23, 2021. (Twitter/@VandyBoys)

The No. 2 Vanderbilt Commodores came out on top in the first game of the highly-anticipated series against the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs by a score of 6-2.

Kumar Rocker was dominant on the mound yet again, pitching a complete game, and the VandyBoys used a massive four-run fourth inning to put them on top for good.

“[He had] his fastball command number one, then he worked off of that,” Coach Tim Corbin said of Rocker. “The slider, the cutter were good pitches for him…Just getting those quick outs more than anything, especially early in the game. Getting to 1-2, 0-2, [him] finding the zone is the key. If any young pitcher is watching that, the thing that should stick out is not arm strength but just strikes, just getting to the plate as quickly as you can.”

The Bulldogs jumped on top in the first inning, taking advantage of Jordan Rowdey’s leadoff ground-rule double and using a sacrifice fly and a groundout to bring him home.

The VandyBoys’ bats were quieted early as they struggled to figure out starting pitcher Christian MacLeod’s off-speed pitches. Through the first three innings, the Commodores struck out seven times and recorded just one hit.

After surrendering the one run in the first inning, Rocker settled in nicely as well. Over his next three innings pitched, he gave up just one hit and struck out three.

The Vanderbilt bats came to life in a huge way in the bottom of the fourth, putting together a momentum-swinging four-run inning.

Dominic Keegan and Jack Bulger got things started with back-to-back walks to open the inning. Then, Bulldog left fielder Brayland Skinner was unable to make a play on a tough liner to left off the bat of CJ Rodriguez, which brought Keegan home and tied the game. After a groundout by Parker Noland advanced the runners, Isaiah Thomas shot a single up the middle to make it 3-1. Vanderbilt wasn’t done there, however, as Enrique Bradfield Jr. added one more run with a hard-hit single to right.

MacLeod didn’t make it out of this inning, finishing the game with a line of 3.2 innings pitched, four earned runs and seven strikeouts.

“We slowed down the bats,” Corbin said of what changed in the fourth inning. “MacLeod’s a good pitcher. You go back and look at the games he’s pitched this year, he shuts people down, people don’t hit him…The fourth inning was a little bit different, we jumped him a little bit, and once we got some guys on, the bats started moving.”

During this inning, Hawkins Field, which had its highest attendance capacity of the season tonight, was roaring. Much of the Vanderbilt football team was in attendance, and they made themselves heard throughout the entire game.

“It means a great deal,” Corbin said of the game’s atmosphere. “We’re kinda transitioning into a new month where you can start to see what this place can be like when there’s people here. That football group, they were up from the minute the game started, from first pitch to last pitch, they never sat down. It was very impressive. We’re very thankful for it and for a lot of people who were here and were voices.”

The Commodores had a chance to add to their lead in the fifth when Rodriguez hit his third single of the day and then Noland ripped a double down the left field line. A groundout to short by Thomas ended the two-out threat, however.

On the other side of the plate, Rocker continued his dominance, seemingly getting tougher to hit with each passing inning. Through eight innings, he struck out eight and allowed just two total hits. In five of the eight innings, he retired the Bulldogs in order.

In the bottom of the eighth, Vanderbilt tacked on two more runs thanks to a single up the middle by senior outfielder Cooper Davis, putting the Commodores ahead 6-1.

Going into the ninth, Corbin had a decision to make on whether or not to bring Rocker back to finish the game with his ace at 95 pitches prior to the start of inning. Ultimately, he elected to bring Rocker back to the mound to let him get his complete-game victory.

Rocker got the first two Bulldog batters to hit lazy fly-outs, but the third one reached base on a throwing error by third baseman Jayson Gonzalez. A single by the next batter, Luke Hancock, scored an unearned run for Mississippi State, but Rocker calmly got the next batter to fly out to center to end the game. The dominant righty’s final line read nine innings pitched, three hits, one earned run, one unearned run and eight strikeouts as the Commodores came out victorious 6-2.

The second game of the series between the Bulldogs and Commodores will take place tomorrow night at 7 p.m. CT at Hawkins Field.

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About the Contributor
Alyssa Muir
Alyssa Muir, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Alyssa Muir ('21) was Deputy Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in economics with minors in business and sociology. When she has free time, she can usually be found binge-watching Grey's Anatomy or rooting on her hometown teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning. For tips and comments, feel free to reach out to: [email protected].    
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