With COVID-19 canceling the College Baseball season, I have decided to revisit and look back at last year’s College World Series Finals between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Michigan Wolverines.
Last June, the Vanderbilt Commodores led by JJ Bleday and Kumar Rocker, hoisted the championship trophy in Omaha after defeating the Michigan Wolverines, but it wasn’t an easy path to the trophy.
Game one of the CWS Finals was all Michigan.
The Wolverines came out of the gates swinging, with two runs in the first inning followed by two more in the second. First baseman Jimmy Kerr slashed a two run home run which proved pivotal and was the turning point to the 7-4 win in Game one.
On the mound for the Wolverines was Tommy Henry. Henry’s outstanding preformance was highlighted by 8.1 IP, 8 Strikeouts and 1 Walk. Closing the game out with no sweat was Jeff Criswell who pitched a clean ninth inning to seal the deal.
Game one went to the Blue. Would Vanderbilt be able to respond?
The Commodores, with their backs against the wall, came back with a forceful win in game two led by freshman phenom Kumar Rocker.
Rocker was lights out with 11 strikeouts and only 3 hits in 6.1 IP. I have no doubt you’ll hear his name called in the 2021 MLB Draft.
The Commodores offense received some help from two wild-pitches by Jack Weisenburger which brought in two runs.
Catcher Phillip Clarke proved critical with a solo home run late in the 7th inning to push the rock over the edge in the 4-win. Austin Martin, potential top five pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, had an RBI in the winning effort.
The series, after two games, was tied with one win each. The College World Series Championship was on the line, with the winner taking all. The pressure couldn’t have been greater.
In game three, Michigan struck first with a Jordan Brewer single that knocked in one run and just like that, Michigan had a 1-0 lead.
The Commodores responded with a few runs of their own. Pat DeMarco hit a solo home run to tie things up.
Later in the third inning, left fielder Stephen Scott connected and knocked in two runs on a bases-loaded single. In the same inning, JJ Bleday, fourth overall pick by the Miami Marlins in the 2019 MLB Draft, slashed an RBI Single. The next batter, shortstop Ethan Paul, knocked in one with a sacrifice fly. The Commodores started to pull away with a 6-1 lead in the 4th inning.
The Blue were unable to provide any answers as they entered the seventh inning.
Harrison Ray added one more to the Commodore lead with an RBI single making it 7-1 in favor of the Commodores.
The Commodores were not done yet! Phillip Clarke struck again with an RBI Single extending the Commodore lead to 8-1. Clarke finished the day 3-4 with 3 hits, 1 run and 1 RBI. Have a day Phillip Clarke!
The man on the mound for the Commodores was sensational. Mason Hickman finished the night with 6.0 IP, 10 strikeouts and 4 hits under his belt.
Would Vanderbilt be able to put a bow on the box and take home the trophy? The answer at this point was clear.
Most certainly they had the potential to do so. Jake Eder closed the game out with 3 IP in relief and brought Vanderbilt it’s second Championship in six years!
Kumar Rocker, the freshman, was named CWS Most Outstanding Player after going 2-0 in Omaha and striking out 11 in an incredible Game 2 performance.
Vanderbilt reigns supreme!
In 2020, the Commodores were looking to go back-to-back this season with key players, Austin Martin, Kumar Rocker and freshman sensation Jack Leiter. There is no question that with all the talent in College Baseball, they’ll have to wait.
In a year from now, the title will be up for grabs in 2021! It will be a long wait but I have no doubt, well worth it!
Photo Credit: AP Photo / John Peterson