The most anticipated game in the history of the North Carolina-N.C. State baseball rivalry was over almost as soon as it began.
The Wolfpack scored four runs off of ACC pitcher of the year Kent Emanuel in the third inning, providing more that enough support for ace Carlos Rodon as N.C. State won 8-1 Sunday afternoon at the College World Series.
While No. 1 overall seed UNC matched a CWS record by using eight pitchers, Rodon (10-2) pitched a complete game, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth and a shutout into the ninth in the tournament opener for both teams.
The Tar Heels (57-11) had overcome the Wolfpack sophomore in the their previous two tournament meetings by outlasting him in marathon games – Rodon threw nine shutout innings in last year’s ACC Tournament as UNC won in 12, and Rodon threw a 10-inning one hitter in last month’s ACC Tournament as UNC won in 18.
Those ACC Tournament matchups brought renewed interest in college baseball locally and caused an unprecedented buildup to the teams first-ever meeting in the College World Series. But Emanuel failed to keep N.C. State (50-14) at bay Sunday in the Wolfpack’s first appearance in Omaha in 45 years.
“As good as (Rodon) is, getting behind is one of the worst things you can do, and it was evident today,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “We've been successful against him in the past, from a win/loss perspective, just because we've been able to hang in there with him and match him on the mound on our side, and just kind of outlast him. You could see his dominance today, just how good that kid is. Just complete dominance, really.”
Emanuel, who struggled to command the breaking pitches that make him so effective, gave up five runs and failed to get out of the third inning for the second straight start since throwing 175 pitches over three days in the Chapel Hill regional.
He has now given up 19 earned runs in 15 innings during the NCAA Tournament.
“I guess everybody’s going to be able to surmise when the year’s over and he’s done, was he tired, or is it just his mechanics are off?” Fox said. “There’s a fine line with Kent because he’s not an overpowering guy, so if he doesn’t have that good command he becomes just an average pitcher.”
Control wasn’t a problem for Rodon, who mixed a low-90’s fastball with a devastating slider. He struck out eight to increase his nation’s-leading total to 178.
“I mean, he was as good as I've seen all year,” Wolfpack catcher Brett Williams said. “And he stepped up for us big today.”
Rodon walked Chaz Frank on four pitches to lead off the game, and then retired the next 14 Tar Heels before Brian Holberton singled up the middle.
UNC got two runners on for the first time in the seventh when it was still 5-0, but Michael Russell grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The Tar Heels finally got on the board in the ninth on an RBI double by freshman Landon Lassiter, but Rodon retired the heart of the order to finish with 108 pitches.
UNC, which is the only team in the country without back-to-back losses, will play an elimination game Tuesday at 3 p.m. against No. 4 LSU. N.C. State will face UCLA Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Fox said he hadn’t decided on a starter for Tuesday, and said he would consider freshman closer Trent Thornton, who won both games against South Carolin in the super regionals. Regular weekend starters Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78) and Hobbs Johnson (4-1, 2.62) struggled against the Gamecocks.
“Whoever we play Tuesday there will be another good team, really good team, and we'll have to obviously play a lot better,” Fox said. “But I have confidence in my guys. It's disappointing today, but you get (an off) day, and sometimes that's good. And I have no doubt we'll be ready Tuesday.”
NOTES – Men’s basketball coaches Roy Williams and Mark Gottfried and UNC football coach Larry Fedora were at the game. … Rodon has a 0.85 ERA in 41.1 innings against UNC. … N.C. State third baseman Grant Clyde was hit-by-pitch three times, tying a CWS single-game record. … It was the first NCAA matchup between the schools since N.C. State beat UNC in the 2007 men’s tennis tournament.
N.C. State 8, North Carolina 1
|Turner ss||4||1||1||0||Frank cf||3||1||1||0|
|Fincher rf||4||0||0||0||Lassiter dh||4||0||1||1|
|Austin c||3||1||1||1||Moran 3b||3||0||0||0|
|Senay 1b||5||0||1||1||Bolt rf||4||0||0||0|
|Clyde 3b||1||2||1||1||Stubbs 1b||3||0||1||0|
|Williams cf||4||2||2||1||Atwood ph||1||0||0||0|
|Adametz lf||4||1||2||1||Russell ss||3||0||0||0|
|Armstrong dh||3||0||1||1||Holberton c-lf||3||0||2||0|
|Ratledge 2b||5||1||2||2||Zolk 2b||2||0||0||0|
|Rodon p||0||0||0||0||Raburn ph-2b||1||0||0||0|
DP_N.C. State 2; North Carolina 2. LOB_N.C. State 11; North Carolina 4. 2B_Austin, Williams, Lassiter. SB_Turner. SF_Austin.
|Rodon W, 10-2||9||5||1||1||2||8|
|Emanuel L, 11-4||2||2-3||6||5||5||1||2|
HBP_by Emanuel (Clyde); by McCue (Clyde); by McCue (Armstrong); by Munnelly (Clyde); by Munnelly (Adametz). WP_Kelley.