For 8 2/3 innings Wednesday night, it looked as though State would be facing Stanford…then it fell apart of the Cardinal. With two outs nobody on, Vanderbilt scored twice to win 6-5, the last run on a wild pitch. It’s now State’s job to find a way to beat the Commodores once in the next two games to advance to the CWS Finals.
It Would Have been Pitcher Perfect
Look, in must win games, you do whatever you need to do to advance. Stanford’s stud pitcher, Beck, went (what should have been) three innings. Meaning heading into the State matchup within two day would have meant limited rest and a huge advantage for the Wolfpack…but…oh well.
Instead State will face this year’s possible #1 draft pick in Kumar Rocker. Rocker is 13-3 on the season with a 2.58 ERA. Similar to Leiter, he has all the tools to succeed at the next level. About a 4.5-to-1 strikeout to walk average and opponents hitting just .161 on the year. It’s unbelievable that a single pitching staff can have two of the best pitchers in the land.
State Would Make Absolute History With Win
This is not a biased “well, he’s a State fan exaggerating again” opinion. If State wins Friday, this will be the most impressive run in the history of the NCAA Baseball Tournament, even without a CWS ring.
State is already the first team in the tournament seeding era to knockout the #1 overall seed and beat the defending national champion in the same Tournament. Then you look further at this run, specifically the last two weeks. With the #1 seed win against Arkansas, they also beat the College Baseball Player of the Year. With the Vanderbilt Game 1 win, they beat the SEC Newcomer of the Year and 1st Team SEC, Jack Leiter. In between, they beat the PAC-12 Pitcher of the Year, Brendan Beck.
Now they’ll face the potential #1 pick in this year’s MLB draft, in Kumar Rocker.
This run will never be duplicated. There is no way a team has to go through a gauntlet like that, the odds are just too great.
Game 2 Preview
State is in an awesome position. They’ve handled everything with maturity beyond their years, and thus, have all the confidence in the world. Leiter, in my opinion, is the better of the two Vandy starters. Although, to be fair, it’s the finest of lines. In his last four starts, Rocker has two wins, a loss and a no decision. When he’s on, he’ll have a shutout, double-digit strikeout, minimal hit afternoon (like versus ECU in Super Regionals: 3 Hits, 0 ER, 11 Ks). When he’s off though? He’ll give up runs and get a little wild pitching (Arkansas took him in the SECT for 5 runs).
If there is one thing I would bet all the money in the world on, Vanderbilt offense will get more than 0 runs on Friday. As much as I love and respect these State starters and Justice on the backend, it’s just near impossible to hold one of the best teams in the country back for two games in a row.
Likewise, this Wolfpack lineup needs to take any and all they can get from Rocker. If we have another bases loaded situation, there NEEDS to be runs that come across. Furthermore, no errors or miscues that allow the Commodores to find their grove.
This CWS, Vandy needed extras against Arizona, lost to State 1-0 and had a late 9th inning to beat out Stanford. They are human this Tournament, but that doesn’t mean you take your foot off their throat.
NC State versus Vanderbilt is at 2pm Friday on ESPN.