OK, so North Carolina State sophomore pitcher Carlos Rodon is partly human after all.
He gave up a four-pitch walk to start the game. He lost his no-hitter with two outs in the fifth inning. And he surrendered his shutout in the bottom of the ninth.
Aside from that, the 6-foot-3, 234-pound left-hander was more machine than man in leading the Wolfpack to an 8-1 thrashing of national No. 1 seed North Carolina on Sunday at the College World Series.
Rodon, the national leader in strikeouts with 178, spent the day firing his 95-mph fastball and 86-mph slider past the team that has scored the most runs in the country this season.
“You could see his dominance today,'' UNC coach Mike Fox said. “Just complete dominance, really. He's really good, and he was too good for us today.''
“I don't think he was that good today,'' North Carolina State catcher Brett Austin said, failing to keep a straight face. “I mean, he was as good as I've ever seen. And he stepped up big for us today.''
Big games have become Rodon's calling card, having now won nine straight times after starting the season 1-2.
“This is the College World Series,'' said the sophomore from Holly Springs, N.C. “It doesn't get any better than this, so why not bring your 'A' game?
“I'm going to compete. And on stages like this, I'm going to compete even more.''
Rodon had the TD Ameritrade Park crowd of 22,972 buzzing and sportswriters reaching for the CWS record book by retiring 14 straight North Carolina batters after his walk to start the game.
“Hey, so he had a few jitters at the start,'' Austin said. “I had my share, too.''
Two players have thrown no-hitters in Omaha. There have been 11 one-hitters and 28 two-hitters.
The no-no ended with two outs in the bottom of the fifth when North Carolina catcher Brian Holberton grounded a single up the middle.
“You try to be perfect,'' Rodon said. “But you're not going to go out there and say, 'I'm going to throw a perfect game or a no-hitter today.' It doesn't work like that.''
Did finally getting a hit spark any hope among Tar Heels that a comeback from their 5-0 deficit was imminent?
“He had been pitching really well,'' Holberton said, “and that base hit maybe could have got a rally going. But it ended up not doing anything.''
That's because Rodon followed Holberton's hit with his seventh strikeout, followed by another perfect inning in the sixth. He didn't allow a runner past second base until the ninth, when North Carolina finally scored.
The last time Rodon had faced the Tar Heels, he'd held them to one hit in 10 innings but left with a no-decision. The difference this time was the Wolfpack offense scored a run in the top of the first and added four in the third — all on two-out hits.
“That was big,'' Austin said. “That's how you win big games — with two-out hits.''
Timely hitting, flawless fielding and a dominant pitching performance will produce a lot of big wins.
“We played very, very well against a great ballclub,'' North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent said. “They've been No. 1 in the country pretty much all year and deservedly so.
“It's a good ballclub, and that shows how well we played.''
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