Now down to eight final teams from an initial field of 64, the 2013 College World Series will see a state rivalry when the University of North Carolina and N.C. State square off in the opening round.
The Tar Heels and Wolfpack will meet on Sunday, June 16 at 3 p.m. ET at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., in what will be a critical matchup in determining which team takes a step closer to college-baseball glory.
Baseball fans saw an epic competition the last time these two clubs met, as UNC got the best of the Wolfpack in an 18-inning marathon game in the ACC tournament during Memorial Day Weekend.
Here is one key to victory for each team in the 2013 College World Series.
UNC: Starting Pitching
You wouldn't know it, but starting pitching has been a serious issue for the Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament.
Against Florida Atlantic on June 6, starter Jeremy Strawn went just three innings, surrendering three runs and two walks on six hits. Although UNC won the 13-inning game by a score of 12-11, the fact that Tar Heels pitchers allowed four homers in the game was extremely disconcerting.
Although the relievers certainly struggled, it's up to the starters to set the tone.
Starter Kent Emanuel lasted just 2.1 innings against South Carolina in Game 1 of the Super Regionals, allowing four earned runs on seven hits.
That trend spilled over into Game 2, an 8-0 loss for the Heels, when SP Hobbs Johnson was bombed by South Carolina, giving up five earned on five hits in a mere 1.2 innings pitched.
The entire starting staff will have to be better against N.C. State, especially Emanuel, who will reportedly get the start in Game 1, via Inside Carolina:
UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes confirmed that Kent Emanuel will start UNC's CWS opener vs. NCSU on Sunday.— InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina) June 11, 2013
UNC's offense—led by Colin Moran—has been the key to the club's advancing to the next round of the World Series, but starting pitching is the ultimate key if the Tar Heels are going to make a run at a title.
N.C. State: Carlos Rodon
In a tournament like the College World Series, dominant starting pitching is a must, and the Wolfpack certainly have it in Carlos Rodon.
In 2012, Rodon became the first freshman in ACC history to be named pitcher of the year, according to N.C. State's athletics page. He was also voted freshman of the year.
The Southpaw fanned 10 hitters as part of a two-hit, complete-game shutout of William & Mary on June 1 and even has UNC manager Mike Fox buzzing, according to CBS Charlotte's The Fan:
Fox on Carlos Rodon: "He's one of the best pitchers we've had in this league in the 15 years since I've been a part of it for sure."— The Drive (@thedrivenc) June 12, 2013
Rodon leads all of college baseball in strikeouts, with 170 in 118.1 innings pitched, while boasting the highest K/9 mark, with an astounding 12.93.
As Pack Pride—an N.C. State Twitter account affiliated with Fox Sports—tells us, Rodon absolutely owns UNC in his career:
Carlos Rodon's Career Line vs. UNC: 4 starts, 1-0 record, 0.84 ERA, 32.1 Innings Pitched, 43 Strikeouts, 10 Walks, 3 Earned Runs Allowed— Pack Pride (@PackPride) June 11, 2013
Guys like Logan Jernigan and Brad Stone are obviously keys for the Pack as well—Rodon can't throw every game—but N.C. State has to make sure it provides enough run support for Rodon when he's on the mound, because it's practically a guaranteed win every time he takes the bump.
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