Vandy rides another strong start by Rocker to win

OMAHA, Neb. — Kumar Rocker followed up his no-hitter in the super regionals with another strong start in his College World Series debut, and Stephen Scott homered twice and drove in four runs in Vanderbilt’s 6-3 victory over Mississippi State on Wednesday.

No. 2 national seed Commodores (56-11) gained the inside track to the best-of-three finals next week. They need a victory Friday or Saturday to advance.

Rocker, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound freshman star who struck out 19 in his no-hitter against Duke on June 8, held the No. 6 Bulldogs (52-14) scoreless until Rowdey Jordan’s two-out RBI single in the sixth inning. That ended Rocker’s 19⅔-inning shutout streak.

Rocker (11-5) limited the Bulldogs to five hits, walked one, hit a batter and struck out six before Patrick Raby took over to start the seventh. Rocker won his fifth straight start and is 9-1 over his last 10.

Scott hit a solo homer in the second inning and a three-run shot in the fifth to break open the meeting of SEC rivals.

The Bulldogs, who came from three runs down in the ninth inning to beat Auburn 5-4 on Sunday and have a nation-leading 28 come-from-behind wins, got their offense going once Rocker left.

Marshall Gilbert homered leading off the seventh against Raby and Jake Mangum doubled and scored when Tanner Allen doubled past diving center fielder Pat DeMarco to make it 6-3.

Tyler Brown entered with two outs and runners on the corners and struck out Dustin Skelton. He limited the Bulldogs to one hit over the last two innings to earn his 16th save, the seventh that required him to get six or more outs.

JJ Bleday’s RBI double started a five-run fifth for Vanderbilt and knocked out MSU starter Peyton Plumlee (7-5). Trysten Barlow took over, and Ethan Paul singled and Philip Clarke walked to load the bases. That brought on Riley Self, and DeMarco tapped his first pitch for an RBI groundout before Scott launched a first-pitch slider over right field for a three-run homer and 6-0 lead.

It was the Commodores’ second win of the season over MSU. The teams didn’t meet in the regular season; Vandy won 1-0 in the SEC tournament.

Vanderbilt plays Friday against winner of the Thursday elimination game between Louisville and Mississippi State.

Louisville 5, Auburn 3

Two Louisville relievers had to survive anxious moments to hold Auburn to two runs over five innings before the 5-3 victory was secure Wednesday, completing a game suspended by rain one day earlier.

The No. 7 national seed Cardinals (50-17) improved to 32-1 all-time when scoring five or more runs in an NCAA tournament game. But they are just 3-10 all-time at the CWS.

“As I’ve learned, it’s not easy winning out here, and they don’t give you anything,” said Dan McDonnell, the coach for all five of Louisville’s CWS appearances. “You’ve got to earn it. We talk about toughness and playing with an edge, and our guys really showed that yesterday and today being in the elimination game.”

Auburn (38-28), which squandered a three-run lead in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss to Mississippi State on Sunday, went 0-2 in its first CWS since 1997.

“Hate that it ends today,” Tigers coach Butch Thompson said. “I think our players, just right up to the end, you could see that our guys are pretty resilient and continued to fight.”

Louisville led 4-1 when the game was suspended after four innings Tuesday.

It was 5-2 in the eighth when the Tigers mounted their biggest threat against closer Michael McAvene, who took over for Adam Elliott (3-2) to start the seventh inning.

The bottom of Auburn’s order produced three straight singles to load the bases with two outs, and McAvene ran the count full against leadoff man Judd Ward. But Ward swung and missed on a 96-mph fastball on the outside half of the plate and finished 0 for 10 in the CWS.

“It was pretty deflating, but at the same time, all year long we faced a ton of adversity throughout our games and we’ve always battled back and we’ve always responded well,” Auburn’s Steven Williams said. “We tried to go back out in the ninth, get a shutdown inning, get back in here and have some good at-bats and see what happens.”

Michael Kirian came on in the ninth and gave up Conor Davis’ one-out home run off the top of the fence in left center, cutting the lead to two. Williams hit a two-out double into the right-field corner before Kirian struck out Rankin Woley to end the game and record his fifth save.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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