No. 5 Tennessee and No. 2 Vanderbilt squared off in game one of a pivotal series in Knoxville on Friday. Vanderbilt shut out the Vols 5-0 behind a stellar performance from Kumar Rocker.
Tennessee’s offense struggled to get things going against Rocker, who is the MLB’s no. 1 overall draft prospect. The Vols could only muster two hits, while Rocker struck out eight in seven innings.
“(Rocker) is a guy with big time stuff and he’s a competitor,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said after the game. “He sees the moment more than others to this point.” Vitello said that his team’s offense could have done a little more to make Rocker work harder, but he was having a great night.
Tennessee’s ace Chad Dallas got the start tonight as well. The junior righty threw seven innings, only allowing two runs and five hits. Two of those hits were solo home runs that gave Vanderbilt the only runs they needed.
Dallas was aware of who the opposing team had on the mound, but that did not change his mentality or add any pressure to what he was trying to do.
“I treat every game the same,” he said. “Baseball is baseball, and anything can happen.”
In the top of the 7th inning, Vanderbilt had runners on second and third. The Commodores’ base runner on third caught a ground ball in foul territory before it was called foul by the home plate umpire. After the last out of the inning was made, Tony Vitello was ejected from the game for arguing with the umpire about the call.
Vitello said after the game that he was still unsure of what exactly he said that got him ejected.
“I had zero interest in getting thrown out of the game…When I asked (the umpire) what I said, I think I heard a suggestion of something that was not what I said,” the Vols’ head coach said.
Scoring runs will not get any easier for Tennessee in game two of the series, as Vanderbilt is throwing Jack Leiter, another top 10 MLB prospect. The two teams are battling for first place in the SEC East.
The second game of the series between Tennessee (28-7, 9-4 SEC) and Vanderbilt (27-5, 10-3 SEC) is at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ryan Sylvia
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Baseball Twitter (@vol_baseball)