Rodon pitches NC State to 7-3 win over UNC

acarter@newsobserver.comApril 27, 2013 

— There are times when Carlos Rodon tries to put a little bit more behind his pitches, times when the magnitude of the moment – and adrenaline – enhance his considerable ability to throw with force.

Some of those moments came at Doak Field on Saturday night during N.C. State’s 7-3 victory against North Carolina – like when Rodon, the Wolfpack’s sophomore left-hander, put a little something extra on a fastball to Colin Moran, and then struck him out with a curveball.

Even when he didn’t try to throw a little harder, a little faster, Rodon still for the most part overpowered the top-ranked Tar Heels (41-4, 19-3 ACC), whose 7-0 deficit was their largest of the season before Cody Stubbs’ three-run home run in the seventh inning.

Stubbs’ home run came after Rodon left the game. He threw 129 pitches, his second-most of the season, and struck out 10 while allowing seven hits and four walks. He left without surrendering a run, but was responsible for two of the runs on base when Stubbs hit his home run over the right field fence.

“Carlos Rodon was very, very special tonight,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “He didn’t pitch as well as he did last weekend against Georgia Tech. But (he) pitched very, very well. And he kept a great hitting lineup at bay.”

UNC has been one of the best hitting teams – and pitching teams, for that matter – in the country this season. Yet the Tar Heels were mostly helpless against Rodon, who allowed his share of base runners but didn’t allow the Heels to do anything with them.

Rodon with two outs in the seventh inning walked off the mound and towards the dugout while most people among a sold-out crowd gave him a standing ovation. Stubbs’ home run came moments later, but it was too little, too late after No. 6 N.C. State (34-11, 15-8) seized control with three-runs in both the fourth and fifth innings.

In the fourth, N.C. State loaded the bases against Benton Moss, the Tar Heels’ right-hander who had been unbeaten in 10 starts. Moss entered Saturday night with a 2.81 ERA, but the Wolfpack produced plenty of scoring chances against him.

After loading the bases in the fourth, Matt Bergquist, the Pack’s No. 9 hitter, drove in a run with an infield single down the third base line. N.C. State scored another run on a passed ball, and another on a swinging bunt from leadoff man Trea Turner.

Moss found trouble again in the fifth, when Jake Fincher singled and then scored from first on Grant Clyde’s double to right-center field. The Tar Heels went to their bullpen after that. Moss allowed the second-most hits (eight) and earned runs (five) he has this season.

“Absolutely atrocious,” Moss said of his start. “It was a terrible outing. Curveball was good. Fastball – couldn’t locate it to save my life, and that’s what killed me. Too many (walks) – they took advantage of it.”

Rodon, meanwhile, wasn’t at his best but he was more than good enough. Even after he threw his 100th pitch in the sixth inning, his fastball continued to exceed 90-mph. He was throwing in the low 90s in the seventh inning.

UNC’s earliest chance to score against Rodon came in the fourth, with the Wolfpack leading 1-0. With two on and two out, Mike Zolk singled to center field. Mike Fox, the UNC coach, waved Moran around third base. But N.C. State center fielder Brett Williams threw on target to home, and Moran was out at the plate.

Later, in the sixth, Rodon struck out Tom Zengel with the bases loaded. The Wolfpack led 7-0 at the time.

With the victory, the Wolfpack evened the weekend series at one game apiece. The teams will meet again on Sunday night to decide perhaps the most anticipated regular-season series ever between the longtime rivals.

“This win means more than any other win,” said Rodon, who improved to 5-2. “I consider us rivals, and it’s a plus that they’re the number one team in the nation. Now we get to go to the rubber match, and (Sunday is) going to mean a whole lot more than today.”

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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