SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt overcame a slow start, using a four-run sixth and steady pitching from starter Kumar Rocker to power past UConn 6-1 on Saturday night at the MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament from Salt River Fields.
Commodore freshman CJ Rodriguez (4-for-4) paced the way, highlighted by a one-out, two-RBI single in the sixth. The four hits were the most by a freshman since Isaiah Thomas registered as many April 30, 2019, against Tennessee Tech. Fellow freshman Carter Young plated Spencer Jones (hit by pitch) on a squeeze bunt single before coming around to score on Rodriguez's third hit.
After producing five hits in Friday's loss to No. 13 Michigan, Vanderbilt (1-1) totaled 12 in the middle game with leadoff batters hitting .667 (6-for-9). Isaiah Thomas (2-for-5), Spencer Jones (2-for-3) and Carter Young (2-for-5) each had multiple hits.
Rocker (1-0) ran into trouble just once, allowing UConn to take a 1-0 lead on a bases loaded walk in the second. The sophomore settled down, retiring the next three batters. He held the Huskies (0-2) hitless with runners aboard (0-for-3) and to a .105 average (2-for-19) overall.
Rocker permitted three walks and one run (none earned) while striking out nine across six innings.
Vanderbilt's Cooper Davis lined a triple into the right field corner to open the fifth and scored one pitch later as Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly into right center. Rodriguez, Jones and Young - who were among six freshmen to make an appearance - each tallied their first career hits.
Freshman reliever Sam Hliboki notched his first career punchout in the seventh. The right-hander logged the save, allowing one hit while fanning three across the final three innings.
The Commodores will look for a winning weekend at 3 p.m. CT Sunday when the squad caps the tournament against Cal Poly. Vanderbilt will send junior southpaw Jake Eder to the mound against freshman righty Drew Thorpe.