Big performance on big stage
NC State's Rodon shuts down hot-hitting Tar Heels in CWS
OMAHA, Neb. -- Filthy. Nasty. Sick.
And those are the nice things people are saying about NC State sophomore left-hander Carlos Rodon -- arguably one of the best pitchers in college baseball. His performance in Sunday’s 8-1 victory against No. 1 national seed North Carolina was “as advertised” as he held the Tar Heels to five hits while striking out eight batters in the Wolfpack’s first College World Series appearance since 1968.
In his third appearance against the Tar Heels this season, Rodon (10-2) painted a masterpiece, holding hot-hitting UNC without a hit for 4.2 innings. Rodon opened the game with a walk to leadoff hitter Chaz Frank, and then proceeded to sit down 14 consecutive batters, including six by strikeout, before surrendering his first hit of the game to Brian Holberton in the fifth inning. The Tar Heels had entered the game batting .306.
“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. But you always give it 100 percent and things go your way.”
“He's learned how to control the emotional side of the game and channel the emotional side of the game,” NC State head coach Elliott Avent said. “I think going into the ninth inning, he might have had 94 pitches against arguably one of the best-hitting teams in the country. And that's not even arguably. It might be the best-hitting team in the country.”
The Tar Heels knew they would be in for a battle against Rodon. In his most recent outing against UNC in the ACC tournament, he fanned 14 batters and allowed just one hit in 10 innings pitched.
“Any time you're facing calls for Rodon, as good as he is, getting behind is one of the worst things you can do,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said. “And it was evident [Sunday]. We've been successful against them in the past from a win-loss perspective 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 can see his dominance [Sunday], just how good that kid is, just complete dominance, really.”
“He was as good as I've seen all year,” NC State catcher Brett Austin said. “Both pitches were working for him -- after the four pitch walk to Chaz, then he settled in a little bit. Maybe the pregame jitters got to him, I don't know. But he's as good as I've ever seen. He stepped up for us big [Sunday].”
Rodon retired the side in order four times, and despite allowing the leadoff hitter to get on base in the seventh and eighth innings, he did not allow a runner to advance past second base until the ninth inning when the Tar Heels scored their lone run thanks to a Holberton RBI double. In both the seventh and the eighth, the Wolfpack defense turned double plays to stifle any Tar Heel rally.
“He uses the slider very effectively, throws it better and controls it better than his fastball and he feeds off that,” Frank said. “And with power pitchers, you usually see them throw their fastball and use their fastball more, but for Carlos it's his slider, and that was difficult [Sunday].”
While Holberton was the only Tar Heel with multiple hits on the day, he also was one of Rodon’s strikeout victims.
“He can control that [slider] and throw it at any count, and then when he needs to, he can throw it 94, 95 [mph] and he can just throw every pitch [Sunday] for strikes wherever he wanted, so he had everything working,” Holberton said.
Rodon has struck out at least eight batters in 17 of his 18 starts this season. He is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in three NCAA tournament appearances this season, and has fanned 27 batters during the 26.1 inning stretch.