The No. 5 Tennessee baseball team couldn’t get much going at the plate against projected top-3 MLB 2021 prospect Kumar Rocker. After their 5-0 loss at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, the Vols drop to 28-7 overall with a 9-4 SEC record, while the No. 2 Commodores rise to 27-5 this season and 10-3 in the SEC.
“Kumar was throwing in outstanding fashion,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “I think our guys did a really good job against him in Nashville a couple of years ago and it was immediately the week after he made a couple of adjustments and there was no looking back. Everybody in the country has struggled against him since then, but there have been teams that have beat him. Last week went well for Georgia against him. The guy we watched on video was not the guy here tonight. He did really well.”
The Vols’ offense mustered just two hits during Friday night’s in-state matchup. Connor Pavolony and Logan Steenstra recorded a double and a single, respectively. Overall, Tennessee struck out 10 times, walked just once and left five runners on base.
Vandy was led offensively by Carter Young and Jayson Gonzalez who each hit solo shots against Tennessee starter Chad Dallas. CJ Rodriguez also got in on the scoring with an RBI single to left field.
The first run of the game came in the top of the second after Steenstra made a fielding error at shortstop, which allowed Parker Noland to advance to third and eventually score to give Vandy the 1-0 lead.
The Commodores struck again in the top of the third with a solo home run from Gonzalez. Vanderbilt would continue to slowly grow its lead with its second homer of the ball game, this time coming off the bat of Young, increasing the lead to three.
The final runs of the game came in the eighth inning. Vandy was able to touch up the Vols’ bullpen, scoring two in one inning. The speedster Enrique Bradfield stole third base and then scored off a throwing error from Pavolony. Four batters later, Rodriguez singled to left field to cap off the scoring, giving Vanderbilt a 5-0 victory.
“Obviously, we didn’t do what we wanted to do today,” Steenstra said. “It’s time to go home, wipe it, come back tomorrow and be ready to go and bring some energy. I think tomorrow is going to be our day for us to do what we need to do and have done all season.
Dallas might have been in Rocker’s shadow, but that didn’t stop him on the mound Friday night. The Vols’ ace went 7.0 innings after surrendering three runs (two earned) on just five hits, zero walks and struck out seven batters. Tennessee’s bullpen wasn’t able to hold the game after Dallas’ exit. Will Mabrey and Connor Housley both gave up runs on three hits and a walk.
Rocker was every bit as advertised against Tennessee in game one of this weekend series. Vandy’s ace twirled a two-hit, one walk, 7.0 inning shutout against the Vols while striking out eight batters. Nick Maldonado entered in relief and threw 2.0 innings without allowing a baserunner.
“Obviously, you acknowledge who the other guy is on their team on the bump,” Dallas said. “I treat every game the same. I know that baseball is baseball and that anything can happen. I try to keep the score down as much as possible every game. I have trust in my team and the position players, the hitters, to succeed when they are up there.”
The probable’s for game two are Will Heflin (2-1) for Tennessee and Jack Leiter (7-0) for Vanderbilt. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET inside of Lindsey Nelson Stadium.