NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kumar Rocker was his dominant self and Vanderbilt jumped on visiting Presbyterian early to start the Nashville Regional with a 10-0 victory Friday at Hawkins Field.
Rocker (12-3), who is now 11th in program history with 286 career strikeouts and fourth in career wins with 26, went seven innings and struck out nine while working around two walks and two hits. He has allowed just four earned runs in six career postseason starts.
The junior was given plenty of run support thanks to a three-run double by Troy LaNeve and a three-run home run by Dominic Keegan – both of those game-changing hits coming in the first two innings. LeNeve and Keegan combined to go 5-for-9 with nine RBIs, two double and two homers.
Friday’s victory was also the 900th in the college coaching career for Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin.
“These games are very tricky. You can look all over the country and see very good teams throughout the year that struggle in these games,” Corbin said. “We were very clean and I think that was the part that we can hang our hat on in terms of defense, pitching and offense when we needed it – at least at the beginning and then as we continued to play through the game. I thought that was a well-played game all around.”
Vanderbilt now faces Georgia Tech (30-23) at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Yellow Jackets, once trailing 6-2, came back to beat Indiana State 7-6 earlier Saturday at Hawkins Field.
Presbyterian (22-22) is scheduled to play Indiana State (30-20) in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“They can hit. They can really hit,” Corbin said of Georgia Tech. “They’ve got a lot of sluggers throughout that lineup and they’re strong kids, I’ve seen that. They’re a team that comes back well. The several times I’ve seen them on TV where they’ve had deficits but they’ve worked through them and hit their way back. It’s going to be an offensive team that we’re going to have to stop.”
Vandy wasted little time denting the scoreboard in the first with a lead-off single to left from Enrique Bradfield and a one-out single to the left-field gap off the bat of Keegan. Tate Kolwyck came up with two outs and took a pitch on the elbow to load the bases for LaNeve.
On a 3-1 pitch, LaNeve ripped a three-run double into the right-field corner putting the Dores up 3-0.
Parker Noland began the second with a base hit up the middle. Carter Young, in a return to the lineup after a dislocated shoulder last month, beat out a chopper over the mound to put two men on with nobody out.
One out later, Keegan blasted a first-pitch, three-run home run to left-center doubling the score.
— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) June 4, 2021
The Commodores would wait until the seventh to change the scoreboard. A two-run shot by Keegan off the batter’s eye in center made it 8-0.
“They both came on fastballs,” Keegan said of his two-homer night. “That’s just kind of my approach. I’ll take a fastball that I can get my hands to and put the barrel on.”
— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) June 5, 2021
LeNeve added some more insurance after that with an RBI single to right. Isaiah Thomas plated a run with a bloop single to left making it 10-0.
Presbyterian starter Charlie McDaniel (4-3) was pulled after 3 2/3 innings and was charged six earned runs on eight hits. He struck out three and threw 64 pitches.
Reliever Alex Flood held Vandy at bay as long as he could with 2 1/3 innings of relief in which he surrendered three earned runs on three hits.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.