RALEIGH — There was no justice at Doak Field on Saturday night for N.C. State pitcher Carlos Rodon.
The freshman left-hander did everything within his considerable talents to get the Wolfpack past Vanderbilt in an NCAA Regional game.
In 6 and two-third innings, Rodon threw almost 130 pitches and left the game with his team ahead 6-3 en route to what would become an 8-3 cushion.
But in what could turn out to be a morale masher for the ages, the Commodores staged a furious rally, overwhelmed the State bullpen and walked off with a 9-8 win to send the Pack’s players and almost 3,000 fans home totally miserable.
The loss means State (40-18) will have to win three straight games – two today and another Monday – in order to advance to next weekend’s Super Regional at Gainesville, Fla.
At 1 p.m. today, the Pack will meet UNC Wilmington (39-22) in an elimination game.
The winner then returns for a 7 p.m. shot at Vandy. If the Commodores should lose, the regional title will be settled at 7 p.m. Monday.
State defeated the Seahawks twice in the regular season – 8-3 on March 4 and 10-0 on Feb. 21. Both games were played in Raleigh. A scheduled third game – March 3 – was rained out.
But Rodon started both of those earlier games against UNCW, getting a win in March and a no-decision in February when his team scored 10 runs in one inning for a 10-0 win that went to teammate Ethan Ogburn. Having thrown 126 pitches Saturday, his season is likely over unless his teammates can do something spectacular.
Ogburn, a junior right-hander, is 4-3 with a 3.01 earned run average and could get the nod today.
UNC Wilmington eliminated Sacred Heart, 13-4, in Saturday’s first game to stay in town another day.
Mark Scalf’s Seahawks had 17 hits and five home runs to end Sacred Heart’s season at 25-32.
Scalf said he planned to pitch left-hander Matt Batts (6-4, 2.59 earned run average) today.
Pack coach Elliott Avent used three pitchers in addition to Rodon. Relievers Ryan Wilkins, D.J. Thomas and Chris Overman got roughed up for five hits and six runs.
Before Vandy’s pivotal five-run eighth inning, everything was in place for a special night for the Pack. Senior slugger Ryan Mathews smacked a towering eighth-inning home run over the left-field wall at Doak Field.
The defense hadn’t committed an error to that point. Rodon was in position-A to run his seasonal record to 10-0.
Tony Kemp’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the night turned special to sour.
During one stretch this season, State won 12 straight games.
But if the Pack’s season is to last longer than today, it’s going to take a win streak, and it’ll have to be done without Rodon.