Rodon mows down Tar Heels for victory
As they walked into a sold-out Doak Field on Saturday, fans were given sheets of paper with black K’s printed on them.
Wolfpack ace Carlos Rodon made sure N.C. State supporters put them to good use.
Rodon fanned 10 Tar Heels in 6.2 innings, shutting down the top-scoring offense in the country and leading the Wolfpack to a 7-3 win.
As soon as Rodon (5-2) exited after 129 pitches, UNC first baseman Cody Stubbs hit a three-run homer against Grant Sasser, who had allowed just two runs in 30.2 previous innings. But by then the sixth-ranked Wolfpack already had built a 7-0 lead against the No. 1 team in the country.
UNC (41-4, 19-3 ACC) had its chances against the 2012 ACC pitcher of the year, leaving nine on base through six innings, but Rodon struck out pinch hitter Tom Zengel with the bases loaded in the sixth and recorded back-to-back strikeouts with two aboard in the fifth.
“We did get runners on, but he’s still out there and he dialed it up a couple times,” Tar Heels coach Mike Fox said. “You’re asking a lot against him to get two or three or four hits in a row.”
When UNC did string two hits together in the fourth inning, it was foiled by a stellar defensive play by N.C. State catcher Brett Austin, who held onto a throw from center fielder Brett Williams as 6-3, 215-pound Colin Moran barreled into him at the plate.
“I don’t know if that’s the best play I’ve ever seen here at N.C. State, but it would tie the best play,” said Elliott Avent, who is in his 17th season as the Wolfpack’s head coach. “If you want something bad enough, you can almost will yourself to do it, and that’s what he did.”
While Rodon was pitching around seven hits and four walks, fellow sophomore Benton Moss (7-1) couldn’t keep N.C. State from manufacturing runs.
The Wolfpack (34-11, 15-8) broke open the game with a three-run fourth in which the ball never left the infield. Grant Clyde was hit by a pitch, Jake Armstrong walked, Bryan Adametz and Matt Bergquist both hit infield singles, catcher Matt Roberts was charged with a passed ball and Trea Turner recorded an RBI on a groundout that went 10 feet.
N.C. State scored three runs more conventionally in the fifth inning, on an RBI double by Clyde and a two-run single by Armstrong.
“Absolutely atrocious — it was a terrible outing,” Moss said. “(My) curveball was good; fastball, I couldn’t locate to save my life and that’s what killed me.”
Besides the 14 runners left on base, UNC also performed poorly in the field. At one point, center fielder Chaz Frank and second baseman Mike Zolk were both under a high pop up by Tarran Senay, but neither player called for it and diving right fielder Brian Holberton couldn’t get to there in time.
“That’s uncharacteristic of us, especially for Chaz not to be aggressive,” Fox said. “Usually, he’s way aggressive. It didn’t go well from the very beginning. That kind of typifies it. We got outplayed and we got beat tonight.”
UNC beat N.C. State 7-1 on Friday to snap the Wolfpack’s 15-game winning streak, so the rubber match of the three-games series will be today at 7 p.m. (ESPNU). UNC junior lefty Hobbs Johnson (2-0, 2.45) is scheduled to face freshman lefty Brad Stone (2-1, 6.23).
“They played well tonight,” Stubbs said. “It happens. It’s why it’s a three-game series. We’ll come back tomorrow ready to play.”