Eight teams came to Omaha to compete in the College World Series, but only two remain.
Arkansas, the 2018 runner-up, was the first to be eliminated. The next to fall were Auburn, Florida State, and Mississippi State. Texas Tech made it to the semifinals, but Michigan eliminated the Red Raiders Friday afternoon 15–3. Vanderbilt defeated Louisville 3–2.
This means Michigan and Vanderbilt will meet Monday at 7 p.m. ET for the final, a best-of-three series.
While we wait to see who wins the championship, here are three stories from the CWS:
Vanderbilt Freshman Pitches First Game Since No-Hitter
Kumar Rocker pitched his first game since he struck out 19 batters in a no-hitter against Duke in the NCAA Super Regional on June 8.
Rocker continued to shine on the pitching mound Wednesday in Omaha, as the Commodores went up against Mississippi State. Rocker only allowed the Bulldogs to score one run in the six innings he pitched. Vanderbilt beat MSU 6–3.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said the 19-year-old Rocker isn’t listening to “barbershop talk” about the no-hitter. Instead, Rocker has kept his focus on his workouts, the coach said.
“The only thing that you can do is control what’s possible for you, and he did that,” Corbin said.
Rocker said he put his previous pitching performance out of his mind during the game against MSU.
“The no-hitter, I moved forward from that,” he said. “I couldn’t think of that while on the mound.”
The first inning of the game, Rocker said he spent trying to get in a good mindset. “I had to take my time and get my feet under me and just start cruising,” he explained.
Rocker has an arsenal of pitches ready for batters such as curveballs, sliders, and a fastball that reaches 98 mph. For athletes facing a pitcher like him, Rocker has simple advice: Expect and prepare for the fastball.
“If they see my fastball and they sit it, they should have success with it,” Rocker said.
Third Generation of Kerr family to Play at CWS for Michigan
Jimmy Kerr (top and above left) grew up hearing stories about how his dad and grandpa played in the CWS for Michigan, and now Jimmy will have similar stories of his own to tell.
Jimmy is the third member of his family to play in the CWS for Michigan. His grandfather, John Kerr (above right), was a pitcher for the 1962 national championship team. That was the last time the Wolverines won the title.
His father, Derek Kerr (above center), was a backup catcher on the 1984 team. That was the last time Michigan made it to CWS.
Jimmy is proud to be part of a family tradition that has lasted three generations. The Michigan first baseman tripled in Game 1 of the tournament against Texas Tech; and in Friday’s game against the Red Raiders he homered to rightfield.
“My dad and my grandfather both left a legacy and will be remembered at the university,” he said. “So it’s cool that my team will be remembered the same way.”
Michigan made it to the finals of the CWS by beating Texas Tech twice and FSU once.
Florida State’s Mike Martin Coaches Last Game of Career
Mike Martin coached the last game of his career Wednesday after Texas Tech eliminated the Seminoles 4–1.
Martin has been coaching FSU baseball for 40 years. During that time he has brought the team to the CWS 17 times, but he ended his career without ever winning the national championship.
Even without taking the trophy home, the Seminoles should still be proud of all they accomplished this season, Martin said.
“Our season ended in Omaha,” Martin said after the game. “There are a whole lot of folks that wish their season ended in Omaha.”
Shortstop Mike Salvatore said he is grateful to have been on Martin’s team.
“How much I learned as a baseball player and as a person will really stick with me for the rest of my life,” Salvatore said. “It was an honor to play in this uniform for him.”
Martin has more wins over his coaching career than any NCAA coach in any sport. He shared that his secret to having 2,028 wins is recruiting dedicated players.
“Guys have to go out and work hard, and that's what all of us try to get across to our players,” Martin said.
Martin recommends that college athletes play in summer leagues. That way they get a chance to go up against players from across the country. “He comes back, he’s a different player,” he said.
When Martin was asked how his coaching career will be remembered, he said people should think of him as a coach who also had high expectations for his players in the classroom.
“I want to be remembered as a guy that did it right, that put education first,” Martin said.