It took Carlos Rodon a few extra seconds to get out of the dugout before the ninth inning, just enough to raise an eyebrow or two in the stands. And then he appeared, escorted to the mound by the kind of applause pitchers usually get when they’re finished, not before.
N.C. State may not have felt good about a 1-0 lead at that point, but the Wolfpack had to feel pretty good about Rodon finishing what he started Saturday night, especially only 100 pitches into it, not many by his standards.
Rodon did not disappoint. William & Mary went three-up, three-down and the Wolfpack was a win away from advancing. On a night when N.C. State could muster only a single run, the Wolfpack needed everything Rodon could deliver, and the sophomore delivered yet another impressive performance.
“Carlos, he’s something else,” N.C. State third baseman Grant Clyde said for lack of a better way to describe Rodon, which inadvertently may be the best way to describe him.
The Triangle has been blessed with more than its share of elite starting pitchers in recent years, both at N.C. State and down the road at North Carolina – Andrew Brackman and Jake Buchanan for the Wolfpack; Matt Harvey, Alex White, Daniel Bard and Andrew Miller for the Tar Heels, among others.
Over his past 23 innings, Rodon has given up a single unearned run on three hits while striking out 33.
Rodon, he’s something else.
“He’s the best I’ve ever had, and I don’t use that term lightly,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said.
Rodon’s past two starts have been nothing short of momentous. He yielded no earned runs in 10 innings in the 18-inning marathon loss to North Carolina at the ACC tournament, and nine nearly flawless innings Saturday, giving up only two hits in a ruthlessly efficient performance marred only by three hit batters.
The burly lefty is as dominating a presence as there is on the mound in college baseball, especially against left-handed hitters. William & Mary had three in its lineup. They went a combined 0-for-7 without getting the ball out of the infield. William & Mary wanted to attack Rodon’s fastball early. That didn’t work.
“He started going to his offspeed pitches, and he had command of every single one of them,” Tribe third baseman William Shaw said.
N.C. State is now only a win away from a Super Regional, where Rodon will loom as a huge threat in a three-game, winner-take-all series no matter who N.C. State plays.
Rodon vs. Mississippi’s Bobby Wahl was supposed to be the Saturday matchup, one of the most anticipated in the entire tournament but one derailed when the Tribe upset the Rebels on Friday. As good as Wahl is, it’s hard to imagine that could have been any better than Rodon vs. William & Mary’s John Farrell was Saturday.
With Farrell throwing strikes early and often, the Wolfpack could only scratch out a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Clyde. With someone else, anyone else on the mound for N.C. State, Farrell’s outing might have been good enough for William & Mary to pull off another upset. Not against Rodon.
“We had some pretty good at-bats and things didn’t go our way,” William & Mary’s Shaw said, then paused. “Plus, you’ve got to tip your cap to him. He pitched a (heck) of a game.”
Shaw is not the first opposing hitter to express that sense of futility facing Rodon. He is not likely to be the last.