Vanderbilt takes first game of doubleheader 12-2 over Georgia State.

Fueled by a patient approach at the plate and five solid innings from Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt began the Sunday doubleheader with a win.

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Hunter Long

Tate Kolwyck hit the second home run of his career on Sunday afternoon. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long).

Justin Hershey, Lead Sports Analyst

Vanderbilt’s second doubleheader of the young season began with a bang Sunday morning, as they donned their USA-inspired jerseys for the first time this year and bested the Georgia State Panthers 12-2.

“Pretty good day honestly to just get on the field and play two games,” Corbin said following the second game of the doubleheader. “Pretty good response to Friday in taking the last three games.”

With rain in the forecast, the opener of Sunday’s doubleheader was moved to an 11 a.m. start, but Kumar Rocker was not phased. The junior earned his second win of the season, going five solid innings, allowing just three hits and three walks while striking out six Panthers using 84 pitches.

It was not all smooth sailing for Rocker, though, who struggled through the final inning of his season opener last week and needed an inning to re-find the strike zone on Sunday. He missed high with his fastball, even losing one pitch too high for CJ Rodriguez leading to a wild pitch.

“Rocker was trying to get in rhythm today in what was a rhythmless game in the first game. There wasn’t any pace to it whatsoever,” Corbin said of his junior ace. “We just probably abused the pace of play committee with that game.”

Nonetheless, Tate Kolwyck caught Georgia State’s Elian Merejo over-sliding on an attempted steal to help Rocker exit the first with no damage.

Vanderbilt got the bats going early with a patient approach at the plate and more opposite field hitting. The Commodores drew three first-inning walks to set up a Parker Noland RBI double. Then, Rodriguez ripped his first of two hits on the day, a line drive through the hole between shortstop and third base to score two more runners, bringing the score to 3-0 after the first.

Defense sparked Rocker’s groove, as Rodriguez caught his second Panther of the game stealing in the top of the second and despite throwing just 13 strikes through two innings, the VandyBoys’ ace suffered no damage early on.

He then proceeded to strike out four straight Panthers between the second and third innings by pounding the top and bottom of the zone using alternating cutters and sliders. Meanwhile, at the dish, Kolwyck added onto the 3-0 Vanderbilt lead with a moonshot to left field for his second career home run in the bottom of the third inning.

The Commodores tacked on their fifth run of the game in the fourth inning with a two-out rally. A deep double from Rodriguez followed by a hit batsman and two of Vanderbilt’s eight walks on the afternoon allowed Rodriguez to score before Rocker came out for his final inning of work.

Rocker escaped a fifth inning jam by striking out two Panthers to end the frame. Despite struggling with control at various points in his five innings, he leveraged his slider to strikeout numerous Panthers and got solid help from his defense.

The bottom of the fifth brought more insurance for the Commodores as Keegan and Noland continued to show how dangerous the middle of this team’s order can be. Noland followed up a Keegan single with his second RBI double of the day, extending the Commodores lead to six. 

Hunter Owen relieved Rocker in the sixth inning and used a blend of breaking balls to force three straight groundouts. But he found himself in a jam to begin the seventh. After a single and two walks, he gave way to Nick Maldonado.

With the bases loaded and just one out, Georgia State’s DeAngelo Abboud hit a dribbler to shortstop and the Commodores were unable to turn the double play thus allowing two Panthers to cross the plate. Maldonado then got out of the jam with a strikeout and proceeded to pitch a clean eighth inning to remain unscathed in 4.1 innings on the mound this season.

Vanderbilt continued to pile it on the Panthers with a five-run seventh inning. Noland’s big day continued as he took yet another outside fastball deep to left field, securing his first home run in a Vanderbilt uniform. The sophomore tallied three hits on the day and racked up a team-high four RBIs in the Commodores dominant performance.

Thomas and Kolwyck followed up the home run with a pair of doubles to give the VandyBoys a 9-2 advantage. Then, after an Enrique Bradfield Jr. walk, Jayson Gonzalez hit a rocket through the left side to score two more, giving Vanderbilt 11 runs in just seven innings.

Carter Young provided the Commodores third and final home run of the day with a shot to deep right field in the eighth before Grayson Moore came on to close out the Panthers.

Barring weather, the second leg of the doubleheader will begin shortly after the opener as Vanderbilt (5-1) looks to take the four game series.