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Rocker puts Vandy within a game of Omaha

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

Vanderbilt's ace pitched like one on Friday.

Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt athletics.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Vanderbilt's Kumar Rocker made his last career start at Hawkins Field a memorable one.

The Commodore junior struck 11, out-dueling East Carolina's Gavin Williams as Vandy blanked the Pirates, 2-0.

Rocker's performance brought back memories of the last time he pitched at Hawkins Field in a super regional. That's the night when Rocker threw a complete-game no-hitter against Duke in 2019 to keep Vandy's season alive.

That night, Rocker used his fastball and slider exclusively. He stuck out all 19 men with that pitch, which sat around 83-84.

What we saw on Friday was a different guy with more pitches.Rocker's fastball didn't have the peak velocity we've seen before--he sat 93-94 most of the day--but the right-hander mixed his cutter, his slider and even a mid-70s curveball with great success.

Rocker also commanded his pitches--and the game--from the start. ECU didn't get a runner past second all day. 

He lowered his ERA to 2.46 and has struck out 155 hitters in 106 innings this year. 

Carolina's Willams dominated himself, sitting 97-99 with his fastball early while striking out 13 Commodores. Vanderbilt scored its only two runs on infield grounders that plated Parker Noland and Enrique Bradfield Jr. 

Vandy sits a game away from what would be its fifth College World Series trip. The 'Dores will throw their other ace, second-year player Jack Leiter, on Saturday in a game starting at 11 Central.