Emanuel’s four-hit, complete game shutout against Miami in the ACC Tournament seems much longer than 25 days ago.
The junior southpaw walked N.C. State leadoff man Trea Turner to open the game and gave up a RBI single three batters later to Tarran Senay. He needed 26 pitches to escape the first inning before falling behind all four batters in the second.
The wheels came off in the third as the Wolfpack knocked Emanuel (2.2 IP, 5 ER, 6 hits) out of the game with three consecutive RBI at-bats. Logan Ratledge added another earned run to Emanuel’s line with a single to left field off reliever Chris McCue. All five of N.C. State’s runs came with two outs.
Emanuel’s outing represents his second-shortest start of the season, edging out last week’s 2.1 IP performance against South Carolina in Super Regional action.
Emanuel has allowed 19 earned runs and 24 hits in 15.0 IP during NCAA Tournament play, good for a staggering 11.40 ERA. The Woodstock, Ga. product’s struggles with his off-speed pitch command have been a consistent issue in recent weeks.
“That’s his strength, to be able to throw his changeup and his breaking ball at anytime at any count to keep the hitter uncomfortable [and] be able to pitch in with his fastball,” UNC head coach Mike Fox told reporters during his postgame press conference. “He hasn’t had that the last few starts, but hopefully he’s going to get another opportunity out here at some point.”
According to Emanuel, it’s as simple as not making the necessary pitches when needed.
He highlighted Senay’s RBI single in the first inning as an example. Emanuel’s intent was to throw away on the 1-2 count, but he left the ball a few inches too far inside, allowing Senay to make solid contact.
UNC entered Sunday’s rivalry contest with a 3-1 record in games that Rodon had started, not due to success against the burly left-hander, but rather an ability to keep the score close and attack after exhausting his pitch count.
“We’ve been successful against him in the past from a win-loss perspective just because we’ve been able to hang in there with him and match him on the mound on our side and just outlast him,” Fox said. “You could see his dominance today, just how good that kid is. Just complete dominance, really.”
That approach looked promising for all of one batter at TD Ameritrade Park. Rodon (9.0 IP, 5 hits, ER) also walked the first batter he faced, putting Chaz Frank on with four pitches.
The Holly Springs, N.C. product settled down immediately, however, throwing 51 strikes over his next 67 pitches and retiring his next 14 batters. Brian Holberton broke up the no-hitter with a single up the middle in the fifth.
UNC scored its first and only run on Landon Lassiter’s RBI double in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“He uses his slider very effectively,” Frank said. “[He] almost throws it better and controls it better than his fastball. He feeds off that. With power pitchers, you usually see them throw a fastball and use their fastball more, but with Carlos it’s a slider and that was difficult today.”
Rodon has been nearly unhittable against North Carolina in postseason play over his career. In three starts, the sophomore southpaw has allowed one earned run on 10 hits in 28.0 innings pitched. He’s also struck out 34 Tar Heels during that stretch.
“He could just throw every pitch today for strikes where he wanted,” UNC catcher Brian Holberton said.
UNC could possibly face Rodon again later this week if both teams advance in bracket play. The earliest potential rematch would occur on Thursday evening.
Fox was not ready to name a starter for Tuesday’s game against the LSU/UCLA loser Sunday night.