While huge sporting events went on this past weekend, the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals overshadowed almost everything else that happened in the sports world. But let’s make sure to take a moment to appreciate a moment in history that occurred Saturday evening in Nashville, Tennessee, on Vanderbilt’s home field.
The way the College World Series tournament works, every team (64 total) that makes the tourney is put into a group of 4, and the highest seed gets to host every game played between its’ group. Vanderbilt happened to be the highest seed in their group, and so they welcomed Indiana State, McNeese State, and Ohio State to Nashville to host games between those 4 teams. Vandy advanced out of their group into the next round, where they had to play a 3 game series against Duke. Because they were the higher seed between the two, Vanderbilt again was able to host all 3 games.
Vanderbilt was the overwhelming favorite coming into the series. Their record (51-11) coming into the series spoke for itself, and this series was expected to go no differently. Duke came into the series with a record of 33-29, having gotten hot at the right time to advance to this point in the tournament. This is why it was a huge surprise when Duke jumped all over Vanderbilt’s pitching in Game 1, running away with an 18-5 rout win.
So now, Vanderbilt was one loss away from being eliminated and their season-ending, at home, to a huge underdog, and wasting an unreal regular season run that had them ranked #2 in the nation at the start of the postseason. And, let’s not forget, they were putting this huge game on the right arm of a freshman. Enter Kumar Rocker.
Rocker wasn’t your run of the mill freshman. He was (and is) one of the highest rated prospects in the 2018 MLB Draft, and was taken by the Colorado Rockies at 18 years old. However, because of the round he was drafted (38), he decided to enroll at Vandy for his freshman season. It wasn’t a disappointing season for him, going 8-5 with a 4.14 era, but he didn’t quite have the leap he would have wanted to boost his draft stock going into the next couple years of his career.
But on Saturday night, when Vanderbilt needed him the most the 19-year-old showed everything he has, on his way to one of the best pitching performances in college baseball history.
That’s right. a NINETEEN STRIKEOUT NO-HITTER. Over 131 pitches, Rocker put on a dominant display, mainly mixing a fastball that reached the upper-90s with a slider that had Duke batters swinging at balls in the dirt all game long.
I mean, look at the above video. Almost all those strikeout pitches were way out of the zone, with many of them even bouncing in the dirt before reaching the catcher. This just goes to show how lost Rocker had Duke players at the plate. It even got so bad that Duke tried the strategy of an offensive conference in between at bats in order to attempt to throw Rocker off his rhythm. How’d this work? Well…
Absolute dominance. Rocker finished the game the way most of it went for Duke batters, with a strikeout on a pitch that was nowhere close:
It’s not hyperbole or exaggeration to say that this is one of the best pitching performances of all time at the college level. And, Vanderbilt rewarded him for this performance, by winning Game 3 on Sunday, 13-2, to advance to Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series. Who knows where Rocker’s career will take him, he may live up to the hype that’s sure to build up after this game, or he may not, but let’s make sure to appreciate the show he put on Saturday, an all time performance.