By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Vanderbilt Commodores are maintaining their high national ranking despite playing some of the toughest teams in college baseball. They took their second straight series against a Top 10 team last weekend, rallying from four runs down in the third game to defeat number four ranked Mississippi State 7-4. That 2-1 series victory follows the one two weekends ago on the road against then number five ranked Tennessee.
Things don’t get any easier for Vanderbilt, as they hit the road against the 14th ranked Florida Gators for a weekend series April 30-May 2. Then they play a non-SEC game against another top-ranked opponent on the road as they face the ninth-ranked Louisville Cardinals on May 4. Vanderbilt has taken series thus far against Oklahoma State (19) and South Carolina (11) in addition to beating both the Volunteers and the Bulldogs.
They are now 13-5 in the SEC Eastern Division and 31-7 overall. They will no doubt remain at number two this week. Their top two starters Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are 9-1 and 7-1 respectively, each only recently losing their first game of a series. Rocker won the opener against Mississippi State 6-2, pitching a complete game for only the second time in his career. Leiter lost for the first time on Saturday, while the Commodores’ bullpen saved the day on Sunday by giving up only one run in 5 1/3 innings, with closer Nick Maldonado getting his third save with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless and hitless relief.\
Even with their rigorous schedule, only a prolonged losing streak would prevent Vanderbilt from hosting an NCAA regional. While questions persist about who will be their third starter, having the Rocker/Leiter duo for every weekend SEC series certainly gives the Commodores a potent advantage.