SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Second-ranked Vanderbilt overcame a slow start, using a four-run sixth and steady pitching from starter Kumar Rocker to power past UConn 6-1 on Saturday night at the MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament from Salt River Fields.
Commodore freshman CJ Rodriguez (4-for-4) paced the way, highlighted by a one-out, two-RBI single in the sixth. The four hits were the most by a freshman since Isaiah Thomas registered as many April 30, 2019, against Tennessee Tech. Fellow freshman Carter Young plated Spencer Jones (hit by pitch) on a squeeze bunt single before coming around to score on Rodriguez’s third hit.
After producing five hits in Friday’s loss to No. 13 Michigan, Vanderbilt (1-1) totaled 12 in the middle game with leadoff batters hitting .667 (6-for-9). Thomas (2-for-5), Spencer Jones (2-for-3) and Young (2-for-5) each had multiple hits.
Rocker (1-0) ran into trouble just once, allowing UConn to take a 1-0 lead on a bases loaded walk in the second. The sophomore settled down, retiring the next three batters. He held the Huskies (0-2) hitless with runners aboard (0-for-3) and to a .105 average (2-for-19) overall.
Rocker permitted three walks and one run (none earned) while striking out nine across six innings.
— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) February 16, 2020
Vanderbilt’s Cooper Davis lined a triple into the right field corner to open the fifth and scored one pitch later as Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly into right center. Rodriguez, Jones and Young – who were among six freshmen to make an appearance – each tallied their first career hits.
Freshman reliever Sam Hliboki notched his first career punchout in the seventh. The right-hander logged the save, allowing one hit while fanning three across the final three innings.
The Commodores will look for a winning weekend at 3 p.m. CT Sunday when the squad caps the tournament against Cal Poly. Vanderbilt will send junior southpaw Jake Eder to the mound against freshman righty Drew Thorpe.
The game can be seen on MLB.com and heard on WNSR 560 AM/95.9 FM.