An early pitcher’s duel turned ugly in Tallahassee on Friday as the no. 2 Florida State Seminoles (15-2, 3-1 ACC) used a late-game barrage to bury no. 7 NC State 6-1 and completely undo a solid outing by Wolfpack starter Carlos Rodon.
Fans arrived at Dick Howser Stadium expecting a pitcher’s duel and were not disappointed — at least not through the first seven innings.
FSU’s Luke Weaver and NC State’s Rodon — both considered first round MLB prospects in this upcoming June’s draft — combined to strike out 19 batters and keep a pair of top 10 lineups at bay as they battled throughout the evening. The two pitchers, both of whom pitched together on Team USA this past Summer, were dazzling as they competed in front of fans and MLB scouts in the opening match-up of a three game ACC series.
“I didn’t treat [tonight] any differently,” said Weaver. “I know against a guy like that you can’t make many mistakes, you have to zone in, have your best game and try not to give up any runs because against a guy like that it’s hard to scratch them across.”
On Friday night — despite Rodon getting the upper hand in their match-up last year — it was Weaver who had the edge.
The junior RHP picked up his fourth win of the season, improving to 4-1 while scattering seven hits across 6.1 innings, striking out seven, walking two and giving up an earned run.
“I’m glad the work I’ve been putting in is showing,” said Weaver. “I feel like I threw the ball well — but not up to my standards inside — but I did good enough [to pick up the win].”
Opposite Weaver, Rodon was equally as impressive, surrendering five hits and a couple earned runs while striking out 12 and throwing 125 pitches. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the loss sent Rodon to 2-3 and the Wolfpack to 14-3 (3-1 in the ACC).
“We know how difficult it is when you’re facing a Carlos Rodon — an outstanding pitcher,” said FSU head coach Mike Martin.
Aside from a rocky fifth inning from each pitcher, neither lineup had much success against either starter on Wednesday.
NC State drew first blood in the top of the fifth inning when they used three singles to plate their first run of the evening. Wolf Pack first baseman Kyle Cavanaugh started the inning with a single up the middle and DH Andrew Knizner followed suit. Two batters later C Brett Austin got a hard shot by John Nogowski at first to score NC State’s first (and only) run of the ballgame.
But FSU responded quickly, tacking on two runs in the bottom of the inning and pulling ahead 2-1. Seminole designated hitter Casey Smit singled on a one out, 0-2 pitch and then Justin Gonzalez promptly drove him home in with a triple off the outfield screen.
“I’ve thought a lot of balls were gone that I’ve hit this year,” joked Gonzalez when asked if he thought he’d cleared the fence. “The way things have been going this year I just kept my head down and ran as hard as I could. I was close but I’m just happy we got the run across.”
DJ Stewart added the Seminoles’ second run of the inning — on a single with the NC State infield in — the very next at-bat to give FSU its first lead of the game.
Gage Smith replaced Weaver with one out in the seventh inning and runners on first and second but quickly induced an inning-ending double play to escape the jam. He stayed on to pitch a scoreless 8th inning as well.
The Wolfpack bullpen didn’t fare as well — the Seminoles broke the game wide open once Rodon left. After chasing the NC State starter and tacking on their third run of the game against the Pack’s pen in the bottom of the 7th, the ‘Noles loaded the bases and plated three more in the bottom of the eighth on two walks and three hits, capped off by a Brett Knief RBI single to left-center.
Kenny Burkhead worked a perfect ninth to close the game out for FSU.
“Huge credit to our bullpen, huge credit to [John Sansone] — he played incredible defense — it was just a good team win,” said Gonzalez.
The Seminoles and Wolf Pack will square off in a double header tomorrow starting at 1 PM.
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