Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker and Stanford’s Brendan Beck made major pitching performances at the NCAA Super Regionals on Friday to propel their teams to the pinnacle of berths in the College World Series.
The Rockers led the national champion Commodores to a 2–0 victory over East Carolina in Nashville, and Beck captured one of the nation’s top offensive teams in a 15–3 victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.
1 national-seeded Arkansas made quick work of North Carolina State in their best-of-three series opener, winning the Grand Slam from Cullen Smith and two homers from Robert Moore in Fayetteville, Arkansas, 21–2. This was the biggest margin of victory in the Super Regionals since the tournament moved to its current format in 1999.
Tony Bullard continued his three-week offensive run, homing twice and tripling to lead Arizona to Mississippi 9–3 in Tucson, Arizona.
The rocker was the biggest star of the last NCAA tournament, and he’s doing his job again, mixing his ’90s fastballs with sliders and curves while keeping the batsmen off balance.
“I think he gives us what we need when we need it,” coach Tim Corbin said. “And it’s definitely a situation at the end of the year where games are important and they’re closely fought and there’s very little difference between teams. So you need guys who are ready to get out there and leave them on the field.” , and they have done so consistently.”
Rocker, who may be the first player to be included in the Major League Baseball draft next month, allowed three hits and scored 11 runs in 7 2/3 innings in his final appearance at Hawkins Field. In last week’s regional opener against Presbyterian, he bowled seven innings of a two-hit shutout ball for No. 4 national seed Vandy (44-15).
In 2019, Rocker pitched a no-hitter against Duke at the Super Regional and was named CWS Most Outstanding Player. There was no NCAA tournament last year due to the pandemic. He is now 6-0 in his career in the national tournament with 0.63 ERA and 64 strikes in 42 2/3 innings.
“It’s your opportunity to drop everything because it’s coming to the wire and you have to do what’s best for your team at the moment,” Rocker said of his inspiration.
The Rocker (13-3) won the pitcher’s duel with Gavin Williams (10-1), who lost for the first time this season after scoring seven hits and scoring 13 runs in 7 1/3 innings.
East Carolina (44-16) is in its sixth Super Regional, and its longest streak of 30 NCAA tournaments without a place in the CWS.
Stanford Beck (9-1) went to the mound with a four-run lead at the bottom of the first innings. He counted 0-2 on 18 of 30 batsmen and scored a career-high 13 runs in 7 1/3 innings. He dropped two runs and never tensed after scoring four runs on homer by Tim Tawa and three straight RBI singles by the No. 9 Cardinal (37-15).
“You give Beck four runs in the first innings, he showed you why he’s the Pac-12 pitcher of the year,” Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “He put up a pitching clinic. That was Greg Maddux all day.”
Stanford entered the game 1–8 in his last four super-field appearances and is going on for his 17th CWS appearance, and his first since 2008. 8 Red Raiders (39-16) are looking for their third straight move to CWS.
The Razorbacks’ 21 runs were the most of 162 NCAA Tournament games and the most allowed by the Wolfpack at 123.
Moore’s first homer gave the Razorbacks a 2–1 lead in the second inning, and his three-run blast in the eighth closed the scoring. Charlie Welch also went deep for Hogg, whose 106 homers lead the nation.
Patrick Viklander (7-1) conceded one run and six hits in six innings, and two relievers allowed Wolfpack (33-18) to hit the rest of the way.
Arizona’s Bullard, who hit a home run in his first 36 games, went deep in the second and fourth innings and hit six homers in his last six games. He scored after his leadoff triple in the sixth and upped the No. 5 Wildcats (44-15) by three runs. Bullard is 15 of his last 24 (.625) with 12 RBI.
Donta Williams scored four, three came home on his base-loaded double, which opened the game in the eighth inning against the No. 12 Rebels (44-21).
game 1 means a lot
Since the current tournament format entered into force in 1999, 80% of the teams that win Game 1 in the Super Regional (134 out of 168) have progressed to the College World Series.
2 Arizona Suspension
The Arizona Daily Star reported that Arizona left-handed relievers Randy Absheer and Gil Luna were suspended for super regionals for violating the university’s student code.
Absier (4-0, 2.91 ERA) and Luna (1-0, 1.69) put together 57 runs in 43 innings.
it’s so hot now
Stanford, accustomed to playing in the cold conditions in the San Francisco Bay Area, had no problem handling the 107-degree heat at Lubbock.
The cardinal went ahead and wore his black road top, which would seem counterintuitive on such a hot day.
“I thought it would be hot in black, white, red, brown,” Beck said. “On the mound, it was hot. I was able to play some quick innings and slow down the game to catch my breath.”
Stanford coach David Esker said he likes to wear black. “It makes me look skinny,” he said.
More AP NCAA Baseball Tournament coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-world-series