The No. 6-ranked N.C. State Wolfpack (34-11, 15-8 ACC) entered the weekend series against top-ranked UNC-Chapel Hill (41-4, 19-3 ACC) with a nation-leading 15-game winning streak, but it came to an end on Friday night by a score of 7-1.
The Pack recovered Saturday night behind sophomore pitcher Carlos Rodon and took down the Tar Heels, 7-3.
North Carolina junior third baseman Colin Moran got the ball rolling for the Tar Heels with a three-run home run off of senior pitcher Ryan Wilkins (5-2, 3.86 ERA) with no outs in the first inning. Wilkins lasted 0.1 innings, allowing three runs off of five hits.
Junior pitcher D.J. Thomas took over on the mound in the first and struck out the next two batters to end the inning. The left-hander lasted 5.2 innings on the hill and gave up three runs, only one earned, on five hits and two walks while striking out three Tar Heel batters.
“Whenever I’m handed the ball, I try to go out there and do the best that I can,” Thomas said.
Head coach Elliott Avent was proud of Thomas’ performance, not only because of his ability to save the bullpen from an early entrance in the series, but his capability to keep the Wolfpack in the game.
“We’ve got a deep bullpen,” Avent said. “It was more important that D.J. kept us in this ball game so that we had a chance to win the game.”
The only run State provided came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Senior left fielder Bryan Adametz led off the frame with a single.
Sophomore second baseman Logan Ratledge followed with an infield single and sophomore shortstop Trea Turner followed up with a walk to load the bases for sophomore right fielder Jake Fincher. The Charlotte native hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Adametz.
Sophomore catcher Brett Austin and senior Tarran Senay both struck out to end the threat.
Tar Heel junior pitcher Kent Emanuel (9-1, 1.75 ERA) held the Pack to one run on seven hits and three walks while striking out nine State batters in eight innings.
The Pack’s victory over the No. 1 Tar Heels marked the third straight year the team defeated the nation’s top team. State beat No. 1 Virginia in 2011 and it No. 1 Florida State in 2012.
Rodon (5-2, 4.30 ERA) only gave up two runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out 10 in 6.2 innings of work. His only two runs came off of a UNC senior first baseman Cody Stubbs three-run home run given up by redshirt senior pitcher Grant Sasser.
Rodon now has 105 strikeouts this season and is currently eighth in school history. The southpaw needs only 146 more strikeouts to tie Terry Harvey’s career record of 386 set in 1995.
“It was a good outing against a high-caliber team, the number one team in the nation,” Rodon said. “I think it’s a pretty good outing. So I think I’m getting back on track and building confidence again.”
“We played well tonight,” head coach Elliott Avent said. “[Rodon] kept a really good hitting team at bay.”
Sophomore left handed pitcher Travis Orwig closed the game for the Pack, pitching the final 1.2 innings. He allowed just one hit while striking out one in his first career save.
“I knew that if I came in and did my thing and threw strikes the way I’ve been throwing them, I’d be able to be successful against these guys,” Orwig said.
State struck first in the third inning as Turner led off the bottom half of the frame with a single. After stealing second, Turner crossed the plate on an RBI single by Austin.
The Pack tacked on three more runs in the next inning. Senior third baseman Grant Clyde was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame. Sophomore designated hitter Jake Armstrong walked two batters later. Adametz singled to load the bases for senior second baseman Matt Bergquist.
Bergquist legged out an infield single as Clyde reached home to give State a 2-0 lead. A passed ball in the next at-bat would plate Armstrong, and then Turner hit a light chopper in front of home plate to score Adametz.
Two innings later, State sent three more runners home. Clyde hit an RBI double that scored Fincher after he got on base with a one-out single. Senior center fielder Brett Williams walked, and then both Williams and Clyde stole second and third respectively, setting Armstrong up for a two-RBI single that concluded the Pack’s scoring for the evening.
Armstrong, a Texas native, embraced the series against State’s nemesis, his first experience in the heated rivalry.
“Coming in, I didn’t know it was that big of a deal,” Armstrong said. “But now it’s probably the biggest rivalry I’ve ever heard of. I don’t think there is one as big in Texas. It’s awesome winning this game.”
Tar Heel sophomore pitcher Benton Moss (7-1, 3.34 ERA) took the loss for UNC after giving up six runs, only five earned, on eight hits and three walks while striking out only two batters.
The series’ third game was rained out Sunday evening and has not been rescheduled. N.C. State will resume action Friday at 6:30 p.m. to start a three-game series against Presbyterian (23-22, 9-9 Big South).