NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kumar Rocker struck out 11 in 7 2/3 innings, while allowing just three hits, and Vanderbilt held off East Carolina 2-0 on Friday to begin a best-of-three series in the Nashville Super Regional.
Vanderbilt (44-15), the No. 4 overall seed, can secure its fifth trip to the College World Series – all coming since 2011 — with a win over East Carolina (44-16) on Saturday. ECU needs two straight wins to advance to its first trip in program history.
Rocker (13-3) and ECU starter Gavin Williams combined for 24 strikeouts.
Rocker threw 117 pitches, the last leading to Connor Norby’s two-out single. Nick Maldonado got the final out of the inning and Luke Murphy picked up his eighth save.
Williams (10-1) lost for the first time this season despite tying a career high with 13 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
Vanderbilt freshman Enrique Bradfield Jr., the nation’s leader in stolen bases, caused problems for ECU in the eighth. Bradfield led off the inning with an infield single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and reached third on a sacrifice bunt. Bradfield was called out at home on a fielder’s choice, but was ruled safe after an official review to make it 2-0.
East Carolina was shutout for just the second time this season.
Road to Omaha
Rocker didn’t allow a hit until Alec Makarewicz’s single to begin the fifth rolled into right field. Two outs later Bryson Worrell walked ahead of Seth Caddell, but Rocker got Waddell to ground out to third ending the threat.
Agnos worked a one-out walk in the seventh only to see Rocker induced a lazy fly to short right and his 11th strikeout of the game to get out of the inning unscathed. The junior exited with two outs in the next inning and left to a standing ovation.