They didn’t have the luxury of superstar pitcher Kumar Rocker on the mound tonight, but Vanderbilt didn’t need him for even a moment in their winner-take-all game against Michigan on Wednesday night. With a dull but decisive 8-2 victory, the Commodores completed a comeback from a 1-0 series deficit, won the national championship, and ended what had been a magical run for the Wolverines.
Michigan’s Jordan Brewer singled home the first run of the game in the first inning, but after that it was all Vandy, starting with Pat DeMarco’s solo dinger in the second.
Michigan starter Karl Kauffmann didn’t have the dominant stuff he had shown all postseason, and Vandy tagged him with five earned runs and chased him from the game as they took a 6-1 lead after four innings. Pitching for the Commodores, Mason Hickman was everything they could have wanted him to be. He got out of a jam in the first by striking out three straight hitters with men on first and second, then he continued to brush off any early-game dust by throwing six strong innings with 10 strikeouts and just that one run allowed.
Unheralded Michigan’s run was very impressive in itself, even though they came up one game short. As only the second Big Ten program to make the CWS since 1985, these surprising last few weeks (including an upset of number-one UCLA) marked a possible resurgence for a school that was long-ago great. Second-ranked Vanderbilt, by contrast, had this championship in their sights all season, but it still carries plenty of emotional weight. This 2019 senior class for Vanderbilt is the class that came in with highly-touted pitcher Donny Everett, who tragically died by drowning after finishing his freshman year. Seven of Everett’s teammates were on this year’s champions.