Rocker and Rolling on the Road

Vandy heads to Florida for another crucial SEC series

by Chad Bishop


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kumar Rocker distinctly remembers his first career start on the road.

It was March 17, 2019 at Texas A&M and the potential No. 1 MLB Draft pick gave up eight hits and four runs – two earned – in a 7-0 loss. Rocker recalled the hostile atmosphere of that day and how, in so many ways, it prepared him for the rest of his career against SEC competition.

As the Vanderbilt junior prepares to start Friday’s series opener at 6 p.m. CT at Florida (28-12, 11-7 SEC), he carries a 7-2 record with him in career road starts since taking the mound in College Station, Texas. And this season he’s 4-0 in such games having allowed just two earned runs.

“I like showing up with the team and it’s us against everybody,” Rocker said. “It’s a lot more fun rather than having the comfort at home.”

Rocker and Vandy (31-7, 13-5 SEC) will look to continue their solid road play this weekend in yet another crucial series in the tightening race for the SEC East crown. The Commodores are one game up on Tennessee and two games ahead of Florida and South Carolina with 12 league games to play.

This week’s trip to the Sunshine State is also the penultimate road series in league play for head coach Tim Corbin’s side. The veteran skipper also cherishes the opportunities to play on the road.

“For us, the approach will always be the same. It has to be the same. I think we’re very intentional with what we do,” he said. “We have a process of before we even get on a plane we meet as a group, we have a process of how we travel, when we land, what we do. It’s not militaristic but it’s very formal and we keep it that way.

“I think road trips are the best team building blocks that you can possible put in place.”

Vanderbilt has had the week off after taking 2 of 3 from highly-ranked Mississippi State at Hawkins Field. Rocker fueled a 6-2 victory in the opener and Carter Young’s three-run home run in the fifth inning of the rubber game Sunday propelled the Dores to a 7-4 triumph.

Those wins put Vanderbilt over the 30-win threshold for the 17th season in a row (not counting the 18-game, shortened 2020 campaign). The Commodores, of course, are ultimately chasing another national championship as they are the last team to leave the College World Series hoisting the trophy in 2019.

The closer Vandy gets to June the more the chatter will grow as to whether or not Vanderbilt can do what the 2019 team did.

“I’d say it compares to ’19 as another great team,” Rocker said on how this year’s squad matches up to the national title team. “I wouldn’t say it compares in its attributes. I think it’s a completely different team.

“It’s a very young team, it’s a very scary team that is willing to compete every inning. I think that’s the biggest thing you get with us. I’m really excited to keep moving forward with this team.”

Florida, which also had the week off, took 2 of 3 at Auburn last weekend and has won 8 of 9 coming in. The Gators have racked up nearly 400 hits this season and have hit 75 doubles.

Slugger Jud Fabian has hit 14 home runs, the sixth-most in the nation.

After Sunday’s series finale the Commodores will head to Louisville for the Battle of the Barrel before returning home to host Alabama for a three-game series starting May 7.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.