Left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon has proven that he doesn't need much run support in order to record a win. However, NC State has not given the ace the runs needed to record a victory yet in the postseason, despite the fact that he brought a career postseason line of just three earned runs and 35 strikeouts in 28.2 innings of work into tonight's contest.
Rodon was his usual dominant self on Saturday night at Doak Field at Dail Park, and the one run that the Wolfpack pushed across in the top of the sixth inning would be all that he needed to pick up postseason victory No. 1. Rodon went the distance and allowed just five baserunners, while he fanned 10, his third-straight outing with double-digit strikeouts.
"There's been some great pitchers in college baseball, and obviously there was another one on the other side of the field tonight," head coach Elliott Avent said. "I hate to use a lot of terms, but I can say [Rodon]'s the best I've ever had. I don't use that term lightly or very often.
"The most incredible thing about his storyline tonight, for me, was how effortlessly he threw, and how he could corral his emotions with the emotion of the stadium.
"This is a very close-knit group of players. They all live together, they all love one another, they do a lot together and they want to win so much for one another. If you try to corral that into one night's game, and I look down at the box score and he didn't walk anybody; I think that's incredible."
In his last 23 innings pitched, Rodon has allowed just three hits and one unearned run.
"I've just been building confidence along the way and my defense backed me up," he said. "The defense has been bailing me out.
"It's great to finally have a postseason win, but it's even better for our team. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and hopefully winning another one."
NC State is a tough out when they have Rodon, one of college baseball's finest, on the bump, and Turner noted that helps the entire team raise their game.
"It's easier to play behind him," he noted. "It's fun to watch him pitch and you're always paying attention. You're not getting sidetracked by walks and long innings. I think he helps us as a team. It makes you lock in a little bit more."
Meanwhile, NC State won their 46th game of the campaign, which marks a program record under their 17th-year head coach, and they are in prime position to make a Super Regional for the second-straight season. NC State will play the winner of tomorrow's William & Mary and Ole Miss game at 6 p.m. in Raleigh. If they win, they clinch a spot in the Super Regional, but if they were to lose, that would force a winner-takes-all game on Monday night.
NC State tallied their lone run of the game in the top of the sixth inning after Turner led off the frame with a double. He moved to third on a Jake Fincher single and scored on a two-out RBI single from third baseman Grant Clyde. Fincher has safely reached base in 58 of this season's 60 games.
"It felt pretty good to come through in that situation," Clyde noted. "Going back to the UNC game [in the ACC Tournament], I had some at-bats where I wasn't fortunate enough to make it happen, but tonight I was fortunate enough to hit a ground ball through the middle and it ended up being the difference in the game."
Around the bases
- With 10 strikeouts tonight, Rodon extended his single-season school record to 161. That also moved him into second-place all-time in the Wolfpack record books with NCSU Hall of Famer Mike Caldwell. Caldwell pitched for the Pack from 1968-71 and led the team to its only College World Series appearance in 1968. Rodon has obviously reached that total in just two seasons. Terry Harvey holds the record with 386.
- Turner recorded a pair of singles for his 23rd multi-hit game of the season (he has only appeared in 50 games). In two seasons with the Pack, the sophomore has reached base at least once in 106 of 113 games, and the team is 38-10 when he has two or more hits. NCSU is 41-8 with the All-American shortstop in the lineup this season.
- Turner also recorded a pair of steals tonight, which extended his school record to 83 in just two seasons.
- Saturday night's attendance of 3,051 was the third-largest ever at Doak Field. The only two games with a bigger crowd were April 27, 2013, against North Carolina (a school-record 3,123) and April 28, 2007, also against UNC (3,109).
- Avent is not sure who will pitch for the Pack tomorrow yet. He noted two possibilities are Brad Stone and Logan Jernigan.