Kumar Rocker has forever etched his name into SEC baseball lore.
Vanderbilt’s freshman pitcher threw the first no-hitter in NCAA baseball Super Regional history on Saturday night, and he did it in style.
Rocker struck out 19 Duke batters on his way to a 3-0 victory to even up the best-of-three series. The Commodores, which are ranked No. 2 in the nation, were facing elimination on Saturday when Rocker turned in perhaps the best pitching performance in the history of the program.
And given that the likes of Boston Red Sox star David Price, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and Los Angeles Dodgers starter Walker Buehler are just a handful of the Major League pitchers that have come through Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin’s program in recent seasons, that’s really saying something. His performance sits atop elite company at one of the nation’s top baseball programs.
The “secret sauce” in Rocker’s performance came from mixing a sharp breaking ball with his fastball from arm slots and pitching planes that were so similar that it was almost impossible to distinguish the two.
Check out the freeze frame view of both pitches from Rob Friedman (also know as @PitchingNinja on Twitter) to truly understand how difficult Rocker’s pitchers were to recognize on Saturday night:
Knowing they were outmatched at the plate, the Blue Devils attempted to throw Rocker off his game by frequently calling time in the batters box and even stopping the game in the seventh inning for a “offensive conference” near home plate.
This only seemed to motivate Rocker more:
For those who do not know, Rocker is the son of former Auburn defensive star and current Tennessee defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. The younger Rocker was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the country entering the 2018 MLB Draft class, but he opted to skip what likely was a seven-figure payday to attend college at Vanderbilt. He next will be available to be drafted by MLB teams in 2021, and could very well be on track for consideration as the top pick in the draft.
Here’s a quick look at all 19 of Rocker’s strikeouts, via @PitchingNinja:
Here’s a look at the scene at Hawkins Field as Rocker completed the no-hitter with his 19th and final strikeout of the night. His mother is understandably emotional.
Corbin called the performance the best he’s ever seen in a post-game conversation with his team, which was captured on camera by @VandyBoys:
Rocker, meanwhile, remained as calm as ever in the post-game celebration. His postgame interview with the ESPN television crew was conducted under complete emotional control for a 19-year-old who just pitched the biggest game of his life. Almost as if nothing happened at all.
Cover photo of Kumar Rocker via Vanderbilt Athletics.