by Matt Sefcovic (@MattSefcovic)
The SEC proved yet again why it is the best conference in all of college baseball this weekend with another series between two top five teams. From the emotions on the field to the talent displayed, this series felt like a super regional environment from the first pitch on Friday through the final out on Sunday.
On Friday night, Kumar Rocker (W, 9-1) showed why he will be one of the top picks in the upcoming MLB draft. The right-handed junior gave up just one earned run, tossing a complete game, giving up only three hits to the #3 team in the country as Vanderbilt took game one 6-2. Rocker added eight strikeouts and did not walk a single batter. Not only did he put Vanderbilt in a good position to win the weekend series, throwing a complete game helped preserve the bullpen against a quality opponent like Mississippi State.
The Commodores offense tallied eight hits, led by CJ Rodriguez with three and Parker Noland with two. Isaiah Thomas and Cooper Davis added two RBI apiece.
Christian McLeod (L, 3-3) struggled to find the zone on Friday, walking four batters and giving up four hits in 3.2 innings of work. McLeod gave up four earned runs, his second highest of the season after giving up five runs to Arkansas a few weeks ago.
The Bulldogs offense was facing an uphill battle after losing Friday night and facing Jack Leiter on Saturday. They responded by delivering Leiter’s first loss of the season and never gave Vanderbilt a chance to get back in it. Mississippi State scored two runs in the first inning and led the entire way, taking the second game by a score of 7-4.
After recording two hits on Friday night against Rocker, Rowdey Jordan led off the game on Saturday with a home run to set the pace for the Bulldogs. Leiter (L, 7-1) would later give up another home run to Logan Tanner, who led Mississippi State with three hits and three RBI. As a team, they recorded ten hits on the day.
The Bulldogs pitching staff allowed just five hits for the game and compiled 16 strikeouts against one of the top hitting teams in the country. Will Bednar (W, 3-1) picked up the win after giving up one run in five innings, striking out eight Commodores. After a shaky outing by Preston Johnson, Landon Sims came in for the final 2.2 innings, striking out six more batters.
The lack of a third starting pitcher proved to be the thorn in Vanderbilt’s side yet again with starter Patrick Reilly unable to get out of the first inning. Reilly gave up three runs on four hits and walked two batters before handing the ball to Chris McElvain (W, 3-0) with the bases loaded. McElvain was able to get out of the jam without surrendering anymore damage, tossing 5.1 innings, giving up just one run. Nick Maldonado (S, 3) would finish the final 3.1 innings for the Commodores, not allowing a single hit. Vanderbilt would storm back and win the game 7-4 and take the series against the Bulldogs.
After finding themselves in a 3-0 hole after two innings, the Vanderbilt offense put up seven runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. Carter Young set the pace for the Commodores with two hits, a triple and a home run, with three RBI. After stealing three bases on Saturday Enrique Bradfield Jr. added another stolen base and two RBI on Sunday.
Jackson Fristoe (L, 3-3) took the loss for the Bulldogs after giving up four runs through 4.1 innings of work. Fristoe, only a freshman, has been used in many situations this season, but appears that he could settle into the third starter role for Coach Lemonis.
Vanderbilt retains the top spot in the SEC East, just one game ahead of Tennessee and two games ahead of Florida after this weekend's results. The Commodores head to Gainesville next weekend to face the Gators as Mississippi State will host Texas A&M. After losing the series this weekend, the Bulldogs find themselves two games behind Arkansas, who is setting the pace in the SEC West.