Duke’s Drew Van Orden outduels NC State’s Carlos Rodon for a 2-0 win

lkeeley@newsobserver.comApril 11, 2014 

— David Perkins hasn’t played in more than half of Duke’s games this year, and he had yet to record an extra-base hit in his 20 at-bats. But he hits left-handed pitching well, so he got the start against N.C. State.

Duke’s designated hitter dug in against N.C. State ace Carlos Rodon to lead off the second inning, with two strikes. Rodon smirked and nodded his head, Perkins said figuring a fastball was forthcoming. Perkins was right, and he took the 96 mph high pearl and drilled it to the deepest part of the ballpark, clearing the 400 feet marker in center with ease.

That run proved to be enough behind a masterful performance from starter Drew Van Orden to take the first game of series against the Wolfpack 2-0.

“I don’t know who it was that hit the home run,” Rodon said dismissively. “The ball is up. You throw a slider there, he’s out, you throw a fastball down there, he’s out. That’s probably the only ball he’ll ever hit off me.”

Duke’s clean-up hitter, Jordan Betts, also took advantage of another high fastball in the third inning to score the Blue Devils’ only other run. The inning started with an error by N.C. State right fielder Garrett Suggs, who misplayed a Mike Rosenfeld single leaving the Duke catcher on third. Two batters later, Betts drove him home.

“Basically every hit we had came on a fastball,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said of his team versus Rodon. “I was surprised, after he got two strikes on Betts with the runner at third that he stayed fastball. I thought he would just hammer breaking ball at that point.”

The Blue Devils (19-16, 8-8 ACC) entered Friday hitting .123 (14-for-114) against ACC lefties, but touched Rodon for six hits and two runs (one earned) over 7 2/3 innings. Rodon, a candidate for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming MLB draft, threw a career-high 134 pitches, walking three, hitting one batter and striking out 12, setting a new school record for fanned batters in the process. Rodon (2-6) has 391 strikeouts in his three-year career, which is tied for sixth in ACC history. Once he started locating his pitches down in the zone, starting in the fifth inning, he didn’t give up any more hits, retiring 11 of the final 13 hitters he faced.

Rodon received no support from the Wolfpack offense – a common theme during this disappointing season for N.C. State (19-14, 5-11 ACC), as the Wolfpack has scored one run or fewer in seven of his nine starts. Friday’s offensive woes were in large part due to Van Orden, who mixed in a fastball consistently around 90 mph with an especially effective slider, and a cutter and change-up as well.

“It was clear by some of the swings that they took that they didn’t recognize it out of the hand,” Pollard said of Van Orden’s slider.

Van Orden, a senior who could be drafted in the eighth- to 10th-round range, pitched eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out 11. It was a return to the form that dominated the Tar Heels two weekends ago, when he struck out a career-high 12 with no walks. Closer Robert Huber pitched a scoreless ninth.

“Van Orden beat us away all night, and we didn’t make an adjustment to that,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “That’s something they better learn how to do. It’s defeating to keep getting beat the same way.”

The closest N.C. State came to scoring came in the third inning when Duke left fielder Ryan Deitrich misplayed a fly ball that resulted in two bases for Nathan Hood. N.C. State’s No. 9 hitter, Suggs, was next, and he hit a single to left as well. But Deitrich made the ideal throw home, on a rope and up the third base line, and Rosenfeld was able to tag out Hood as he tried to slide home.

Duke will try to take the series Saturday at 1 p.m., matching lefty starter Trent Swart (2-1, 1.29 ERA) against another N.C. State southpaw Ryan Williamson (1-0, 0.96 ERA).

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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