The accolades and achievements continue to pile up for Indian American pitcher at Vanderbilt, Kumar Rocker.
The dominant pitcher had already hurled the eighth no-hitter in NCAA Tournament history June 8, when he did so against Duke, striking out 19 along the way – in an elimination game, no less.
He later went on to lead his collegiate team to a College World Series victory, pitching a stellar game facing elimination in the championship series against Michigan, throwing six and a third innings, allowing one run and striking out 11. Vanderbilt would win the title the next day.
Now, Baseball America June 28 announced that Rocker was named the ‘Freshman of the Year’.
The publication, which rated Rocker – whose mother is originally from India – No. 13 in its 2018 top 500 high school prospects, said Rocker exceeded lofty expectations.
“He opened the season in the weekend rotation and stayed there nearly the whole year, a rarity among Vanderbilt’s elite pitchers. And while the start of his season was a bit rocky, it ended on the highest of highs, with him being helping Vanderbilt to the national championship and being named College World Series Most Outstanding Player,” the Baseball America report said.
Rocker went 12-5, 3.25 with 114 strikeouts and 21 walks in 99.2 innings this season. In the NCAA Tournament alone, he was 4-0, 0.96 with 44 strikeouts and five walks in 28 innings. When the Commodores needed him the most, he stepped up, the report noted, citing the no-hitter against Duke and the performance against Michigan in the finals.
As a result of his outstanding season, Rocker is the 2019 Baseball America Freshman of the Year, it said.
Rocker has an overpowering fastball that routinely reaches the upper 90s.
His parents Tracy, a former NFL defensive lineman who went into coaching after his playing days ended, and Lalitha, have been an important presence for Rocker, the report notes.
Rocker said his father, who currently is the defensive line coach at Tennessee and has coached all over the SEC and spent three seasons on staff with the Tennessee Titans, still helps him with the mental game, it said.