OMAHA, Neb. • A five-run fifth inning coupled with a stellar mound outing from Vanderbilt starter Kumar Rocker sent No. 3 Mississippi State into the loser’s bracket following a 6-3 contest at the College World Series on Wednesday.
Rocker fired six strong innings and only allowed one run while Stephen Scott slugged two home runs and drove in three to put the second-ranked Commodores in the driver’s seat with a bye on Thursday.
“You’ve got to give credit to Vanderbilt,” said MSU coach Chris Lemonis. “I thought Kumar Rocker was really good to start and Tyler Brown was really good to finish. We didn’t manage the fifth (inning). The fifth is what gets us a little bit.
“But you have to give credit to their players and Stephen Scott. He hit a couple of balls that changed the game.”
With the loss, the Diamond Dogs now face elimination and play No. 11 Louisville on Thursday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. The winner will have to beat Vandy twice in order to reach the best-of-three championship series that begins on Monday.
‘Turn the page’
“That was a tough one to swallow but it is what it is,” MSU center fielder Jake Mangum said after Wednesday’s game. “We’ve got to go home tonight and turn the page quick. We’ve got a really good team tomorrow that we’ve got to play against and it’s going to be another great college baseball game in Omaha. You’ve got to be ready to go.”
MSU will start freshman right-hander JT Ginn (8-4, 3.36 ERA) against the Cardinals, who will go with junior lefty Nick Bennett (7-3, 4.40).
In Wednesday’s game, the Bulldogs had an opportunity to get out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fifth inning and only down 2-0, when Pat DeMarco hit a grounder right to State first baseman Tanner Allen.
Instead of coming home and trying to turn two that way, Allen elected to attempt a double play at second. The force out was recorded at second but no one was covering first and another run scored.
“Tanner thought he had the double play,” Lemonis said. “He’s played a great first base for us all year. We always say that ball can take you either way. I just think it was kind of a squib so I think that’s the piece that got him a little bit.”
The next batter up, Scott, sent his second home run into the right field bullpen off Mississippi State starter Peyton Plumlee. It was a three-run homer to go along with the solo shot he hit in the second inning.
“We left some balls over the plate and for a good hitter, man, he took advantage of it and crushed them,” Lemonis said.
After falling behind 6-0, MSU finally got to Rocker (11-5) in the sixth on an RBI single by Rowdey Jordan. It was the first run Rocker has allowed in his last 20 2/3 innings.
The Diamond Dogs tacked on two more off Patrick Raby in the seventh, thanks to a solo homer from Marshall Gilbert and an RBI double by Allen.
The Commodores (56-11) and Bulldogs (52-14) both finished with nine hits.
Gilbert was 2 for 4 with a solo shot for State and Mangum was 2 for 5 with a double. Allen and Jordan Westburg also doubled.
Plumlee (7-5) took the loss, surrendering three runs on six hits and a walk in 4 1/3 innings with five strikeouts. Keegan James gave MSU a chance with 3 2/3 scoreless frames of one-hit relief.
Trysten Barlow, Riley Self, Colby White and Eric Cerantola also pitched out of the Bulldogs’ bullpen.