Vanderbilt freshman Kumar Rocker no-hits Duke in NCAA Super Regional, keeps season alive with 19 Ks

Johnny Flores Jr.Yahoo Sports Contributor
Vanderbilt's Ethan Paul makes a catch of a line drive during the first inning of the team's NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game against Duke on Saturday, June 8, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Vanderbilt's Ethan Paul makes a catch of a line drive during the first inning of the team's NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game against Duke on Saturday, June 8, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Kumar Rocker is just a 19-year-old freshman, but on Saturday with Vanderbilt against the wall, he pitched like a bonafide ace and tossed a no-hitter against Duke in the NCAA Super Regional.

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Rocker finished the night throwing 131 pitches with 19 strikeouts en route to a 3-0 Commodores victory. He had at least one strikeout in each of the game’s nine innings and struck out the entire side in the final inning.

It is the eighth no-hitter in NCAA tournament history, but the first no-hitter in the NCAA Super Regional. The Super Regional was added to the tournament in 1999.

Rocker is also Vanderbilt’s first single-pitcher no-hitter since 1971. The feat was last achieved by Doug Wessel prior to tonight.

Adding to the incredible feat, no MLB pitcher has struck out more than 17 in a professional no-hitter, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Max Scherzer and Nolan Ryan both carry the most strikeouts in a no-hitter.

“I’m trying to win, that’s all I was trying to do,” Rocker said. “Every inning, I was trying to win. It sounds whatever, but I was trying to win for the team.

No-hitter keeps season alive

Vanderbilt, playing as the No. 2 seed in the Super Regional, was pounced by Duke on Friday losing 18-5. A loss tonight would have ended the Commodores season.

Instead, Vanderbilt rode Rocker’s masterclass in pitching along with some timely hitting to come out on top and force a winner-take-all Game 3 on Sunday.

The first inning started off on a scary note as Duke’s Kennie Taylor took a high fastball to the face from Rocker. Taylor was able to walk off the field, but did not return. Rocker was able to rebound and finished the inning with his first of 19 strikeouts.

From there, Rocker got into a rhythm and began mowing down Duke batters with his fastball and wicked slider.

Vanderbilt scored its first run in the fifth inning on a two-out single to right field to go up 1-0.

“Whenever we got that one run, I was like ‘I gotta go shut them down, so we can keep this game rolling and we can get out of here with the win,’” Rocker said. “We got past that inning and I just kept rolling from there.”

In the seventh inning, Duke attempted to disrupt Rocker’s timing by having a “hitter’s conference.” Rocker finished the inning with his 15th strikeout and was clearly fired up.

When asked about the move Rocker said, “I don’t mind it, but it backfired.”

The Commodores added an insurance run in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0. A suicide squeeze bunt by Julian Infante made it 3-0, enough for Rocker to close out his historic night.

Now, the two teams will meet again Sunday afternoon with the winner heading to the College World Series.

Vanderbilt alums celebrate no-hitter

Vanderbilt has built quite the baseball program with many of its players going on to have successful MLB careers. In particular, Vanderbilt has had a long lineage of success with developing pitchers, including recently David Price, Sonny Gray and Walker Buehler.

The Commodores many baseball luminaries joined in celebrating Rocker’s achievement on social media.

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