Draft prospect Rocker aces first test of '21

March 13th, 2021

Kumar Rocker faced top-tier competition for the first time of the 2021 collegiate season on Saturday, but the way he was pitching it might not have mattered what lineup he was up against.

The No. 1 Draft prospect put together his finest start of the year, piling up nine strikeouts over a season-high eight innings of two-hit ball in Vanderbilt's 5-0 shutout of Oklahoma State. He walked one.

Rocker was scheduled to make his first Friday night start for the No. 2 Commodores against the No. 13 Cowboys, but a postponement pushed his outing to the opener of a day-night doubleheader, with No. 6 Draft prospect Jack Leiter continuing his mastery in the nightcap. The delay clearly didn't affect the 21-year-old right-hander, who threw 70 of 103 pitches for strikes.

The gem maintained Rocker's perfect 2021 ERA and made him 4-0 in four starts, as well as pushing his strikeout total to 34 over 28 innings. He retired the first five Oklahoma State hitters, then shrugged off a single by Max Hewitt to start a new streak of 11 consecutive Cowboys batters set down. After Brock Mathis got to the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder for a pinch-hit double in the sixth, Rocker fanned two in a row to end the inning. He tossed a 1-2-3 seventh and shrugged off a two-out walk in the eighth, getting Mathis to bounce out to third base to end the fine start.

As SEC play and the Draft draw closer during Rocker's junior year, he figures to attract more and more attention with each start. But the product of a Bogart, Ga., high school has shown no signs of wilting in the spotlight -- he famously threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke in the NCAA Super Regionals as a freshman in 2019, and facing a top-15 opponent Saturday seemingly brought out his best.

Although not as dominant as his rotation mate, Leiter continued to overpower opposing batters. The son of former All-Star Al Leiter limited OSU to two hits and three walks over five scoreless frames. Leiter fanned seven to give him 32 punchouts in 20 innings. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 0.36 during his 96-pitch outing while running his record to 4-0.