For the fourth time this season the Diamond Heels will face Tobacco Road rival NC State, but this time the stakes are higher than ever. Though the loser will not be eliminated from the College World Series, the road will be a lot tougher. Of the 20 teams to make it to the Championship Series only two lost their first game in Omaha. Let’s take a look back at the three previous meetings to see what, if anything, the Heels should expect.
The first game between these two was on Friday, April 26 in Raleigh. The Heels took the game 7-1. UNC ace Kent Emanuel pitched eight strong innings, surrendered only one run, seven hits, and struck out a career best nine batters. The Tar Heels scored three in the very first inning, and with a 5-0 lead by the third, this game lacked any real drama.
The following day, the Wolfpack answered with a win of their own, beating the Heels 7-3. If the first game was a testament to the abilities of Emanuel, this game was a reminder of just how good Wolfpack sophomore Carlos Rodon can pitch. Rodon pitched 6.2 innings, struck out 10 Heels, but did surrender two earned runs on a home run by Carolina first basemen Cody Stubbs. The Wolfpack touched up Carolina starter Benton Moss for 6 runs, and State led 7-0 after five.
The third meeting between the teams more than made up for the drama lacked in the first two games. Because the final game of the April series was canceled for weather, this match up was in the ACC Tournament. It ended up being the longest game in ACC Tournament history, an 18-inning affair that ended with the Heels headed to the conference championship game.
What did this game tell us? The biggest point might be once again the effectiveness of Carlos Rodon. The sophomore pitched 10 innings for State, striking out 14 Heels, and only allowing the one unearned run. As amazing as he was though, Carolina still won the game. Four Carolina pitchers, led by Hobbs Johnson matched Rodon pitch for pitch. UNC showed no quit, and this ability to find a way to win seems to be ingrained into this team.
College World Series
The winner of this game will face the winner of LSU and UCLA, and both teams are throwing their aces in the opener. It will be Rodon vs. Emanuel, and though Emanuel looked rough in his start against South Carolina, he seemed to look fine in the final outs of the Super Regional.
Both teams are coming off their own dramatic Super Regional wins. Both teams won the first game in a 9th inning walk off. State went on to win a 17 inning affair in their second game (setting a record for longest game in Super Regional history), and as most of our readers know, Carolina took an extra game to secure their spot in Omaha, beating South Carolina on Tuesday.
Expect the Triangle to be abuzz with college baseball excitement all week, and both teams should be rested, excited, and ready to play. First pitch is scheduled for 3pm, Sunday June 16.