Vanderbilt is far from an underdog in the College World Series.
In some ways, having Vanderbilt and Michigan reach the best-of-three finals in Omaha should be soothing to the Diamond Heels not making it back to the College World Series. Aren’t the Commodores and Wolverines more like Carolina than not?
Vandy is good in most varsity sports and has been to Omaha behind players like pitcher David Price who went on to the big leagues and won a Cy Young Award in 2011. Michigan is good in everything, but starting the baseball season in cold weather could be a reason the Wolverines haven’t been back to the CWS since 1984 and last won the NCAA championship in 1962.
The black-clad Commodores are led by two-time national and three-time SEC Coach of the Year Tim Corbin, who has a career .672 winning percentage and has taken the Dores to the NCAA tournament every season but one since 2004.
They reached Omaha for the first time in 2011 and beat Virginia for their first College World Series title in 2014; then they came back to finish second in 2015. Don’t be surprised if they are in the pig pile on the pitcher’s mound late tonight. Vandy seems perfectly suited to the sport and plays a brainy brand of ball.
The Commodores reached the do-or-die championship game by squaring the series with a 4-1 win over Michigan, behind mammoth freshman pitcher Kumar Rocker, who made headlines around here when he tossed a no-hitter against Duke in the NCAA Super Regionals while striking out 19 Blue Devils. That broke the school’s single-game strikeout record, held by Price with 18.
Rocker isn’t built like most baseball players and he doesn’t look like a freshman. Coming out of high school in Georgia, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound right-hander, was tabbed as a high first-round draft choice until it became known that he might go to college for three years. So he fell to No. 38 in the draft, picked by the Colorado Rockies, and promptly signed a scholarship at Vanderbilt.
Rocker gets his body type from his father, Tracy, who played football at Auburn and then for the Washington Redskins. He struck out 11 in only 6 1/3 innings against Michigan, so in the expected all-hands-on-deck championship game, look for Rocker to still have something left and come out of the bullpen firing when needed.