NASHVILLE, TN — Staff aces Gavin Williams of East Carolina and Kumar Rocker of Vanderbilt are listed as the probable starters for the best-of-three Super Regional that gets started at noon today at the Commodores’ Hawkins Field.
It will be a strength-on-strength matchup unless the 60 percent chance of rain causes coaches Cliff Godwin or Tim Corbin to hold their premier right-hander for Saturday, which has a favorable forecast, rather than risk a shortened start due to a delay.
Godwin remembers the 2018 regional final against UNC-Wilmington when Jake Agnos didn’t return after a lengthy stoppage. The Seahawks knocked ECU out with a 9-7 comeback win.
If the series unfolds as scheduled, the probables for Saturday are left-hander Carson Whisenhunt (6-1, 3.75 earned run average) for the Pirates against Jack Leiter (9-3, 2.22).
ECU leadoff batter Connor Norby, who is hitting .418 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs, talked about his mindset earlier this week.
“They’re good, but they can be beat,” Norby said ” … We have to grind on them.”
The Commodores are the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament while the Pirates are No. 13. Both teams are 43-15 and each has a .300 team batting average. Memphis is a common opponent, losing 10-4 at Vandy on March 9. ECU was 5-1 against the Tigers in American Athletic Conference games.
Godwin was on Corbin’s staff at Vandy in 2004-05 as director of baseball operations, so the chess game between the former teacher and pupil should be interesting.
Rocker (12-3, 2.65) has been projected as a high draft choice. Williams (10-0, 1.82) could well go before the middle of the first round July 11. The ECU junior can still help his pending riches in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think I had people to prove that I can actually start and go as long as I can,” Williams said of his decision to return for 2021.
After 30 NCAA Tournament appearances and five Super Regionals without a trip to the College World Series, the Pirates as a group have something to prove as well.
Vandy won the CWS the last time it was played in 2019. They are still the defending national champions.
“The motto all year has been, ‘You’ve got to go through the front door to go to Omaha,'” Norby said. “You can’t go through the back.”