After being trounced by NC State in the opening game of the College World Series, the Tar Heels have a shot at revenge as the two teams play an elimination game tonight. Kent Emanuel was thoroughly out pitched by Carlos Rodon in the first game, but tonight’s game features different starters.
Throwing for the Heels is junior left hander Hobbs Johnson. Carolina fans will remember Johnson’s start in the super regional where the pitcher was ineffective against South Carolina. Johnson gave up five runs on five hits in only 1.2 innings pitched. The Heels would go on to lose that game 8-0.
His start in the regional was more in line with how he pitched during the season. In his six innings, Johnson didn’t allow a hit. He did, however, walk five batters and the control struggles led to one run. The Heels would lose that game 3-2.
During the season Johnson posted an impressive 2.11 ERA in 14 starts, but he had the highest walk totals on the team (walking 40 batters in 71.1 innings). Perhaps most impressively during the season, Johnson held opposing hitters to a .202 average.
Perhaps most pertinent to this game, Johnson did start against NC State in the ACC Tournament. He pitched 5.1 innings, struck out nine, walked only two, and surrendered only a single run. This was, as I’m sure you remember, the 18 inning epic that the Heels won 2-1.
If Johnson can erase the Super Regional start from his mind, he should be plenty rested to return to mid season form. With the recent UNC starting pitching struggles, that would be great news for Carolina.
On the opposing side, the Wolfpack are sending freshman Brad Stone to the mound. Carolina fans will be excited to not see Rodon take the mound, but Stone is another lefty.
Stone was third for the Wolfpack in innings pitched with 58, and he struck out 59 hitters. More than one strikeout per inning is an impressive total, but his ERA was a relatively high 5.28. Don’t take too much stock into that, as Stone is still a left hander with impressive stuff.
While Rodon might not be starting, depending on how the game goes he might be available to throw a few innings out of the pen. A left handed closer who can throw mid-90s with a devastating slider is something the Tar Heels will want to avoid, so that might give them another reason not to get down early.
It might not be the two staff aces, but this game is even higher profile than the previous one. State won that game, but whoever wins this one will have the last laugh. The loser’s season is finished.