Louisville 1st in to CWS; Rocker no-hitter keeps Vandy alive
Louisville became the first team to clinch a spot in the College World Series, but it was Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker who provided the biggest highlight on the second day of the NCAA super regionals.
The freshman pitched the first no-hitter in the super-regional era that started in 1999, and the No. 2 national seed Commodores kept their season alive with a 3-0 win over Duke on Saturday night.
No. 1 UCLA and No. 9 Oklahoma State also will play decisive Game 3s on Sunday. Jake Moberg scored from first on Kevin Kendall’s double in the 12th inning and the Bruins beat Michigan 5-4. The Cowboys scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to get past Texas Tech 6-5.
In super regional openers, Florida State, Auburn, No. 5 Arkansas and No. 6 Mississippi State won and can clinch CWS bids Sunday.
Louisville’s Bobby Miller carried a no-hitter through eight innings in a 12-0 win that wrapped up a two-game sweep of East Carolina. He gave up a hit in the ninth before Michael Kirian finished to preserve the shutout for Louisville (49-16), which reached the CWS for the fourth time since 2013 and fifth overall.
Vanderbilt’s Rocker dominated Duke 24 hours after the Blue Devils won the series opener 18-5. Rocker used a devastating breaking ball to strike out 19, including 12 of 14 in one stretch and the last four. He threw the first individual Vanderbilt no-hitter since 1971 and the eighth in NCAA Tournament history.
“The eighth (inning) was the one I had to get over,” said Rocker, who threw 131 pitches. “The ninth came. I said I’m here, I might as well do it.”
UCLA had bases loaded twice with none out in the 11th but couldn’t push a run across after a quirky unassisted double play by third baseman Blake Nelson and an inning-ending groundout. Moberg reached on Michigan’s fifth error in the 12th and scored when Kendall’s drive into right center.
Oklahoma State took three leads against host Texas Tech only to see the Red Raiders come back. With the score tied 5-all, OSU loaded the bases against Clayton Beeter and Taylor Floyd in the ninth, and Noah Sifrit came home on Floyd’s third wild pitch of the inning.
Florida State, trying to return retiring coach Mike Martin to the CWS for a 17th time and give the all-time NCAA coaching wins leader one last shot at his first national title, overcame a four-run deficit for the first time this season to beat LSU 6-4. The Seminoles (40-21) also continued Martin’s streak of winning at least 40 games each of his 40 years at the helm.
Auburn, down three runs after seven innings, scored nine runs in the last two to beat host North Carolina 11-7. Rankin Woley drove in three runs in the Tigers’ five-run eighth, and Edouard Julien hit a three-run homer in the ninth.
Jack Kenley’s three-run homer in the first inning ignited 2018 national runner-up Arkansas in an 11-2 win over Mississippi. The host Razorbacks got a career-high 8 1/3 innings from Seattle Mariners second-round draft pick Isaiah Campbell.
SEC pitcher of the year Ethan Small struck out eight and gave up five hits in six innings and Mississippi State knocked out Brendan Beck after three innings in a 6-2 win over Stanford.
East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin said his team deserved better treatment from the NCAA in scheduling and seeding. The Pirates, of the American Athletic Conference, required five games to win their weather-plagued regional and had to play doubleheaders last Sunday and Monday. They got three days off before opening the super regional.
“I felt like when you push two games together, our guys just ran out of gas having to play five games in 48 hours,” he said. “And you’d think for student-athlete welfare — the NCAA is so concerned about that — we wouldn’t have to play the first game on Friday. I guess that’s the way it is when you’re a non-Power 5 school.”
Godwin also said the Pirates’ resume merited them being a top-eight national seed, which would have allowed them to play super regionals at home.
“I’m not being a sore loser,” he said, “but I’m protecting my guys and my guys deserve that. I was going to say this whether we won the super regional or lost it.”
WILL BE DONE
Mississippi’s Will Ethridge had a string of 24 2/3 innings without issuing a walk end in the first inning against Arkansas. He lasted 3 1/3 innings and allowed eight runs, six earned — the first time in four starts he had given up more than two runs.