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June 16, 2013

Rodon gets run support, shuts down UNC

OMAHA, Neb. - Carlos Rodon must have wondered at some point what it would feel like if his NC State teammates ever gave him some postseason run support. He found out Sunday at the College World Series, and rode five early-inning runs to an easy 8-1 victory over top-seeded North Carolina.

Counting Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournament games, Rodon (10-2) was making his seventh career postseason start, yet carried a 1-0 postseason record with six no-decisions into Sunday's encounter with the Tar Heels, thanks to a near-total lack of run support. The Pack scored a grand total of eight runs when Rodon was on the mound in his first six postseason games, an average of 1.76 runs per nine innings.

The Wolfpack matched that with eight runs in nine innings Sunday against the Tar Heels. State gave Rodon a run in the top of the first inning against Kent Emanuel (11-4), the ACC pitcher of the year, on a two-out single by Tarran Senay, then chased Emanuel with four runs in the top of the third. Emanuel was charged with five runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings.

Brett Austin got the big rally started with a double to the wall in left-center, and Grant Clyde, Brett Williams, Bryan Adametz and Logan Ratledge followed with two-out hits to drive in runs and give Rodon a virtually insurmountable 5-0 lead. The Wolfpack added a superfluous run in the eighth and two more in the ninth, which was complete overkill.

Rodon had no trouble making all that run support stand up. He allowed a leadoff walk to Chaz Frank in the bottom of the first inning, then set down the next 14 UNC batters in order, and 18 of the next 19. He pitched around a leadoff walk in the seventh and a leadoff single in the eighth, getting out of both innings with double-play grounders.

"It's nice to have eight runs on the board, pitch comfortably," Rodon said. "The offense did a nice job and defensively we were flawless, so all around we played great baseball."

The win by the Wolfpack (50-14) evened the season series with the Tar Heels (57-11) at two games apiece and sends NC State into a Tuesday night game against the winner of Sunday night's LSU-UCLA game.

"We played very, very well, I'll say that," Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent said. "That's obviously a great ballclub. They've been No. 1 in the country pretty much all year and deservedly so. We've had several battles with them and everybody remembers the epic 18-inning battle, but it's a good ballclub and that shows how well we played."

Rodon, who has won his last nine decisions, has allowed just four earned runs on 19 hits in his last 40 1/3 innings, striking out 50 and walking six. For his career against the Tar Heels, he improved to 2-0 with three no-decisions and a 0.87 ERA. In 41 1/3 career innings vs. UNC, he's allowed 24 hits, struck out 51 and walked 12.

Rodon tied a TD Ameritrade Park record by beginning the game with 4 2/3 hitless innings. Brian Holberton broke up the no-hitter with a single up the middle, but Rodon shrugged it off and struck out Mike Zolk to end the inning. Holberton had two of North Carolina's five hits.

"You know," Rodon said, "you try to be perfect, but you're not going to go out there and say, I'm going to throw a perfect game today, or I'm going to throw a no-hitter today. It doesn't work like that. I thought it would be either Cody Stubbs or Brian Holberton to get a hit, and one of them did. It happens. It's baseball."

The Tar Heels finally broke up the shutout in the ninth on a leadoff single by Frank and an RBI double to right-center by Landon Lassiter. That was way too little and way too late.

Rodon now is 2-0 with a 1.15 ERA in the postseason. He has tossed 55 postseason innings and allowed 28 hits, struck out 62 and walked 13. And those starts have been against some of college baseball's best teams - one College World Series start vs. North Carolina, NCAA Super Regional starts vs. Rice and Florida, NCAA regional starts vs. William & Mary and Vanderbilt, and two ACC Tournament starts vs. UNC.

Dominant in any game, Rodon seems to rise to the occasion when the chips are on the table.

"This is the College World Series," Rodon said. "It doesn't get any better than this, so why not bring your A game. Of course, I try to bring my A game every time. When I come out, I'm going to compete. And on stages like this, I'm going to compete even more, give it more than I can."

Rodon, the NCAA strikeout leader this season, walked two and fanned eight to give him 178 K's for the season, adding to the single-season school record he established three weeks ago, and 313 for his career. He now ranks 22nd in ACC history and second in the NC State record book in career strikeouts. Rodon has notched eight strikeouts or more in 17 of his 18 starts this season.

The Wolfpack offense got excellent production from the bottom of the batting order. While catalysts Trea Turner and Jake Fincher were a combined 1-for-8 batting in the first two spots in the lineup, the bottom five hitters - Clyde, Williams, Adametz, Jake Armstrong and Ratledge - were a combined 8-for-17 with a double, three hit-by-pitches, two walks and six RBIs, five of them against Emanuel.

Williams, who is hitting .308 (8-for-26) with three doubles in the NCAA Tournament, doubled and scored in the third, then singled and scored in the ninth. He also added a sacrifice bunt.

"I feel like we really did a great job with our approaches at the plate today," Williams said. "Trying not to let the big stage amp us up too much, trying to stay within ourselves and do what we've been doing all year. And I think we did a really good job of that, swinging at the pitches in the zone and getting the barrel on it and finding holes. It just worked out really well for us today."

NC State's 50-win season is the first in program history. The previous school record for wins in a season was held by the 1993 team, which finished 49-17. After an 18-10 start, the 2013 Wolfpack now is 32-4 since March 31, including a 6-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament, and has won 11 of its last 12 games.

Tarran Senay's first-inning RBI single was his third game-winning RBI in NC State's six NCAA Tournament games. He had RBIs to put the Wolfpack ahead for keeps against Binghamton in the Raleigh Regional, against Rice in the first game of the Raleigh Super Regional, and Sunday against North Carolina in the College World Series.

N.C. State NEWS


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