NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Up and down, mostly in bunches of three. Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt’s junior fireballer, kept pumping searing fastballs and wicked curves past Presbyterian’s overmatched batters on Friday night in the Nashville Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
Rocker wore No. 80, but he threw it 95. The Commodores scored 10; the Blue Hose scored zero.
A Rocker pitch hit PC’s Eric Toth in the first inning.
Troy LaNeve cleared the bases with a 2-out double in the bottom of the first, and Vanderbilt (41-15) never looked back.
Presbyterian (22-22) earned its berth by winning the Big South tournament. The Commodores won theirs by being No. 4 in the nation. In a 64-team bracket, some of the matchups are bound to be a tad lopsided.
“Being on this stage, and this being our first regional, we were able to get out there and get our feet wet,” Blue Hose head coach Elton Pollock Jr. said. “We would’ve liked to have gotten a better result.
“I tip my cap to [Vanderbilt], but we’re a resilient bunch and we’ll be ready to play [Saturday].”
Vanderbilt opened the second with a pair of ground-ball hits that wouldn’t have exceeded a neighborhood speed limit. Again, Charlie McDaniel recorded two outs. Again, the next batter drove in 3 runs. Dominic Keegan’s was a home run.
Landon Shaw almost got an infield hit with one away in the third. McDaniel retired the Dores in order in the bottom half. Things were looking up, or at least stabilizing.
Brody Fahr lined out to right, robbed by the Vandy right fielder, Isaiah Thomas, in the fourth. Who got the first Blue Hose hit? Why, Toth, of course, who doubled to left next, but Zacchaeus Rasberry and Sean Klein struck out.
Presbyterian head coach Elton Pollock Jr. took the ball from McDaniel in favor of a righty, Alex Flood, with, yes, two down in the fourth, and the first batter he faced was, yes, Keegan, who this time hit a soft liner to Fahr at short.
Right fielder Jay Wetherington made a diving catch to prevent a Vandy run in the fifth.
Kyle Decker singled solidly for the second Blue Hose hit with one out in the sixth.
Flood struck out 5 in 2-1/3 innings on the mound for PC.
Wetherington walked and stole second base with two down in the seventh, but Rocker retired Shaw for his ninth strikeout.
Keegan crunched his second home run of the night – along with a double – to hike Vandy’s lead to 8-0 in the seventh. That blast chased Flood in favor of PC’s third hurler, Luke Matthews. The end result of the inning was 3 more Vanderbilt runs.
Thomas Schultz relieved Rocker in the eighth, and Eric Miles replaced Schultz with 2 out and 2 on, and Thomas singled in the 10th run.
“We got a very well-pitched game,” Vandy head coach Tim Corbin said. “That’s where you have to start. Kumar (Rocker) set the tone. He got us deep into the ballgame.”
The Blue Hose face an elimination game on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Indiana State (30-20), which fell 7-6 to Georgia Tech on Friday afternoon.